Retail sales burst higher in January as consumers use stimulus checks to spend heavily
Consumers flocked to spend their stimulus checks in January, sending retail sales for the month up 5.3% in a blockbuster start to 2021, according to a government report Wednesday.
Economists surveyed by Dow Jones were expecting a rise of just 1.2%.
Excluding autos, sales rose 5.9%, also far ahead of the 1% estimate in a display of unexpected strength from the consumer.
A month after Congress approved a $900 billion additional stimulus package on top of the $2.2 trillion approved earlier in 2020 to counteract the Covid-19 impact, shoppers were armed with $600 checks they used to buy a variety of goods.
The jump in consumer spending came at a time when expectations for growth in the early part of 2021 were muted as the economy continued to shake off the pandemic-induced slowdown.