OTTAWA -- Canadian retail sales rose more than expected in March, driven by increased purchases at new and used cars dealers, as well as electronics and appliance stores, data from Statistics Canada showed on Friday.
Sales were up 0.7 percent, exceeding economists' forecasts for a gain of 0.4 percent, while February's sales were revised to show a decline of 0.4 percent, less than the initially reported 0.6 percent decrease.
Sales rose in six out of 11 sectors in March, accounting for 53 percent of total retail trade. Stripping out the effect of price changes, volumes climbed 1.2 percent.
The motor vehicle and parts sector led the way with a 3.2 percent increase, driven by a 3.8 percent gain in sales of new cars. Excluding autos, retail sales were down 0.2 percent.
Light-vehicle sales in Canada have remained strong so far in 2017. Through April, deliveries gained 2.5 percent to 618,721 vehicles, according to DesRosiers Automotive. The gain was driven by a 6.1 percent improvement in truck sales, which offset a 4.3 percent decline in car deliveries.
Sales at electronics and appliance stores jumped 3.1 percent. Stores that are usually linked to home purchases and renovations also continued to see strength, with higher sales at building material and garden equipment stores, as well as furniture stores.