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US retail sales hit record high

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US retail sales hit record highs in March, a new commerce department report shows.

Sales hit $US411 billion ($AU398 billion) – 24% higher than the low hit in March 2009.

Joshua Shapiro, an American economist, said retail sales had picked up considerably.

The good news comes after several positive indicators signalling the world’s biggest economy is recovering, including jobs figures showing steady, but slow, payroll growth.

Russell Price, a senior economist at Ameriprise Financial, the third-best forecaster of US retail sales for the last 24 months, said job growth had afforded families more income to make purchases.

The retail sales increases came despite a rise in petrol prices which harmed car-dependant US consumers.

“The industry and consumers have been very resilient in the face of higher pump prices,” Don Johnson, vice-president of US sales at General Motors, said. “The steadily-improving economy is playing a role and so is pent-up demand and an improved credit market.”

Sales in March may have been helped by warm weather, according to some analysts, as demand at building material stores climbed 3%. America had its warmest March in 117 years, according to the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

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