US retail sales up 0.4% in March

image captionMarch's rise in retail sales is the ninth one in a row

US retail sales rose for the ninth month in a row in March and February's figures were higher than originally thought, official figures show.

The US Commerce Department said retail sales rose by 0.4% in March, compared with February.

However, much of the rise was due to higher petrol prices. Excluding petrol, sales were up by just 0.1%.

February's previous estimate of a 1% rise in sales was revised upwards slightly to 1.1%.

On an annual basis, US retail sales were 7.1% higher in March than in the same month in 2010, the Commerce Department said.

Economists are hoping that tax cuts and jobs growth will keep consumers shopping this year.

Consumer spending is a crucial part of the US economy and accounts for about 70% of economic activity.

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