WASHINGTON — Retail sales exceeded economist expectations in October, jumping 1.2% on stronger auto sales, the Commerce Department reported Monday.

Excluding autos, retail sales grew 0.4% as motor vehicle sales rose 5.0%. Economists expected October gains of 0.7% for retail sales and 0.4% for sales excluding autos. Excluding auto and gasoline sales, retail sales rose 0.4% in October.

Diane Swonk, chief economist at Mesirow Financial, said in a research note that the October gain was more meaningful because it resulted from a higher base after September retail sales were revised upward to a 0.7% gain from the 0.6% rise originally reported last month. August sales were also revised higher to a 0.9% gain from the 0.7% rise initially reported.

“The consumer is showing signs of life, affirming our forecast for a re-acceleration in growth,” Swonk said. “Broader consumer aggregates, however, continue to mask deep divisions across income strata. The wealthy are back and willing to spend conspicuously, while the majority of households continue to stick to necessities and shop for deals.”

Subscribe Now

Independent and authoritative analysis and perspective for the bond buying industry.

14-Day Free Trial

No credit card required. Complete access to articles, breaking news and industry data.