The numbers: Sales at U.S. retailers rose a mild 0.5% in March and a large part of the increase reflected higher gasoline prices, suggesting inflation is taking a toll on U.S. households.
Economists polled by The Wall Street Journal had forecast a 0.6% advance.
One bit of good news: Sales in February were revised up to show a 0.8% increase instead of 0.3%, the government reported Thursday.
If gas stations and auto dealers are set aside, retail sales rose an even smaller 0.2% last month.
Retail sales are a big part of consumer spending and offer clues on the strength of the U.S. economy. While Americans are still buying lots of goods and services, they often simply just paying more money.
The cost of living jumped 1.2% in March, according to the consumer price index. Adjusted for inflation, retail sales fell sharply in March.
|U.S. retail sales in March||+0.5%|
|Autos & parts||-1.9%|
|Electronics & appliances||3.3%|
|Home & garden centers||0.5%|
|Food & beverages||1%|
|Health & personal care||-0.3%|
|Sporting goods & hobbies||3.3%|
|Internet (nonstore) retailers||-6.4%|
|Bars & restaurants||1%|
Big picture: High inflation is outstripping wage gains for workers and pinching households budgets. Americans are thinking twice about what they buy and how much and seeking out cheaper alternatives.