Retail sales rise in February

Retail sales edged up a seasonally adjusted 0.3% in February to $296.41 billion, the U.S. Commerce Department reported, reversing a 0.3 percent decline in January.

Sales excluding automobiles rose 0.2 percent in February after a 1.2% surge in the prior month.

One of the strongest categories in the retail sales report was sales at furniture and home furnishing stores, which climbed 1.5% in February after a 0.3% rise in January.

Sales at electronics and appliance stores also increased strongly in February. They were up 1.1%, bouncing back from a 3.2% drop in the prior month.

Clothing and clothing accessories sales slowed down from the heady pace they saw in January. Purchases at clothing stores eased 0.1% in February after a 1.4% rise in January.

Vehicle and parts sales rose 0.4% in February came after a plunge of 4.6% the previous month. The sharp January decline came on the heels of a huge car-buying spree in late 2001, which had been fueled by zero-percent financing incentives.