In a further sign that the economy is beginning to mend itself, the U.S. Department of Commerce reported on Tuesday that retail sales climbed by 0.4 percent in January, as consumers paid more for gas and various commodities.
While November and December were driven by gains in auto sales, last month's retail figures appear to have been driven by spending on electronics, home supplies, sporting goods and visits to restaurants and bars. Spending on vehicles actually fell in January, The Associated Press reports. Excluding autos, building materials and gasoline sales, core retail spending increased by 0.7 percent.
"I don't think there's anything here that really brings into question the fact that the economy has been improving," Wayne Kaufman, chief market analyst at John Thomas Financial, told Reuters.
Consumer spending accounts for roughly 70 percent of the economy, so analysts gauge retail activity as a critical indicator of market sentiment. Usually, consumer trends follow gains in employment, as higher employment leads to more spending.
"The good news is that the strong January gain establishes that the consumer trend is not folding," Pierre Ellis, an economist at Decision Economics, told the AP.