Retail sales rose 1.1% in March by the most since September 2012, helping the economy recover from a weather-depressed start to the year, the Commerce Department reported April 14.
The increase was higher than the 0.9% forecast by Bloomberg News analysts and followed a 0.7% gain in February that was revised upward. Purchases excluding automobiles rose 0.7%.
Ten of 13 major categories showed increases last month, led by the biggest gain in motor-vehicle purchases since September 2012. Sales at department and general merchandise stores jumped the most since March 2007.
The figures used to calculate gross domestic product, which exclude categories such as food services, auto dealers, home-improvement stores and service stations, rose 0.8% in March, double the gain of February.