Retail sales, helped by rising gasoline prices and a slight gain in auto sales, rose last month and remain solidly above April 2017

Washington (AFP) - Retail spending in the world’s largest economy slowed sharply in April, retreating from March’s booming pace, but still grew at a healthy rate, according to government data released Tuesday.

The solid result could contribute to a rebound in GDP growth in the second quarter of the year, especially after sales figures for March were better than initially reported.

Retail spending rose 0.3 percent for the month, reaching $497.6 billion, matching economists’ expectations but much slower than March’s 0.8 percent jump, according to the Commerce Department.

Sales remain a healthy 4.7 percent stronger than the same month last year.

Economists said Tuesday that an upward revisions for March and February meant the April numbers were actually better than they looked as they made the monthly increase appeared smaller.

Analysts had also expected flagging auto sales to weigh on the retail sector but they rose a token 0.1 percent instead, helping bolster the overall result.

However, sales at gasoline station jumped 0.8 percent, the biggest increase since January.

“Higher retail gasoline prices are likely to bite into spending on other discretionary goods and services, especially as the summer driving season approaches,” Mickey Levy of Berenberg Capital Markets said in a research note.

Retail sales at the start of the year were disappointing as replacement and reconstruction spending slowed from the last summer’s back-to-back hurricanes.

But April’s numbers pointed to a return to the pre-storm trend as American consumers plunked down more cash in for clothing, furniture, building materials and groceries.

Non-store retailers like Amazon saw a 0.6 percent increase, putting them a stunning 9.6 percent above April of last year.

Excluding the volatile auto sector, however, total sales rose just 0.3 percent, falling well short of analyst expectations.

Receipts fell at bars and restaurants, electronics retailers, sporting goods outlets and health and personal care stores.