The Commerce Department released a report on Monday showing U.S. retail sales increased by much more than expected in the month of March.

The report said retail sales climbed by 0.7 percent in March after advancing by an upwardly revised 0.9 percent in February.

Economists had expected retail sales to rise by 0.3 percent compared to the 0.6 percent increase originally reported for the previous month.

"The robust gain in retail sales in March followed by upward revisions in the prior two months shows the consumer continues to power the overall economy forward," said Nationwide Chief Economist Kathy Bostjancic.

However, she added, "The lack of moderation in consumer spending and inflation will undermine Fed officials' confidence that inflation is on a sustainable course back to 2% and likely delays rate cuts to September at the earliest and could push off rate reductions to next year."

The stronger than expected retail sales growth came despite a pullback in sales by motor vehicle and parts dealers, which slid by 0.7 percent in March after spiking by 2.5 percent in February.

Excluding the decrease in auto sales retail sales jumped by 1.1 percent in March after climbing by 0.6 percent in February. Ex-auto sales were expected to rise by 0.4 percent.

The sharp increase in ex-auto sales partly reflected a 2.7 percent spike in sales by non-store retailers along with a 2.1 percent surge in sales by miscellaneous store retailers.

The report also showed sales by gas stations shot up by 2.1 percent in March after jumping by 1.6 percent in February amid higher gas prices.

While sales by general merchandise stores also saw a notable increase, sales by sporting goods, hobby, musical instrument, and book stores; clothing and accessories stores; and electronics and appliance stores slumped.

The report also said core retail sales, which exclude automobiles, gasoline, building materials and food services, jumped by 1.1 percent in March after rising by 0.3 percent in February.

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