U.S. retail sales in March rose by the largest amount in 18 months, led by strong gains in sales of autos, furniture and a number of other products. The 1.1 percent jump reported by the Commerce Department on Monday was the best showing since September 2012. The government also revised February to a 0.7 percent gain, more than double its previous estimate.
Citigroup’s profit up 2.5 percent
Citigroup’s first-quarter earnings rose as the bank got a boost from declines in expenses and provisions for bad loans. The earnings improved even as revenue from mortgage refinancing and bond trading fell. The bank reported a profit of $4.1 billion in the first quarter, after stripping out the effects of an accounting change and a tax item. That was up 2.5 percent from the same period a year earlier, when it made $4 billion.
Businesses’ stockpiles grow
U.S. businesses boosted their stockpiles in February as sales rebounded by the largest amount in nine months. Stockpiles increased 0.4 percent in February following a similar 0.4 percent increase in January, the Commerce Department reported Monday. Sales rose 0.8 percent in February, bouncing back after a 1.1 percent sales decline in January that was blamed on the harsh weather that month. It was the biggest one-month sales gain since last May.