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Canadian retail sales bounced back in March after a February setback, growing 0.4 percent as consumers bought more cars and warm weather prompted them to begin their spring shopping for items such as clothing, sporting goods and garden equipment.
The increase was a notch above the 0.3-percent gain forecast by market operators and followed a 0.2-percent decline in February, according to Statistics Canada data on Wednesday.
The volume of total retail sales, used to calculate gross domestic product, also rose 0.4 percent.
Excluding autos, sales were up just 0.1 percent, with gains in seven of the 11 retail sub-sectors.
Motor vehicles and parts dealers reported a 1.2-percent increase in sales in March, largely because of a 0.7-percent rise in new car sales and a 7.7-percent jump in "other motor vehicle dealers," which includes boats, motorcycles and other recreational vehicles.
Sales at general merchandise stores rose for the third straight month, up 1.1 percent in the month. Receipts grew by 1.8 percent at building material and garden equipment dealers and by 1.3 percent at clothing and accessories outlets. Strong sales of sports equipment boosted sales by 1.9 percent at sporting goods, hobby, book and music stores, Statscan said.
Overall retail sales were 4.1-percent higher than in March 2011.