Following a lackluster January, US retail sales in February rose 0.6% -- three times the previous month's revised growth rate of 0.2%, reported the US Commerce Department last week.

February's figure was in line with economists' expectations, with auto sales notching the largest rise at 2.7%, the biggest increase in eleven months.

Sales at clothing, electronics, appliance and department stores also posted gains. But furniture, sporting goods, book and music stores, aso at health and beauty shops, went into reverse. Building and garden-supply stores were likewise down as bad winter weather hit some parts of the country.

There was also encouraging news from the Labor Department which reported new unemployment benefit claims dropped during the first week of March by a seasonally adjusted 6,000 to 341,000, a six-week low.

Companies are also slowing the pace at which they lay off workers. However, the employment tide is slow to turn, with just 21,000 jobs added month-on-month in February.

Data sourced from: The Washington Post Online; additional content by WARC staff