How can you tell that Americans are starting to recover from the recession? They start spending money. According to a new Census Bureau report on the month of February, spending money is exactly what Americans are doing. Last month, retail and food sales saw an increase of 1 percent, $3.7 billion to be exact.
The Atlantic's Daniel Indiviglio points out that food and gas prices were on the rise during this time, inflating the numbers somewhat. But taking those two commodities out of the equation still leaves a 0.9 percent increase in sales, proving that "any argument that sales are increasing by necessity due to rising oil and food prices doesn't hold water," he writes. In addition, he's surprised retail rose this quickly against such high oil prices--high oil prices are generally supposed to dampen economic energy.
February sales for the auto industry were particularly high, with a 2.3% increase, while furniture and health care spending were the only two to drop. Peter Bookvar at Ritholtz thinks the increase is positive, but not necessarily surprising. He predicts March sales data will give us a better idea of how Americans are actually reacting to high gas prices.