Canadian retailers emerged from months of slumping sales with a sharp rebound in February that may ease some worries about consumer weakness.

Retailers posted a 0.8 per cent gain in sales on the month, Statistics Canada said Thursday from Ottawa, versus economist expectations for a 0.4 per cent gain. February's increase was the strongest since May 2018, and follows six straight months of negative or flat readings -- including a 0.4 per cent decline in January -- that fueled concern about slowing household consumption.

Key Insights

-A pick-up in receipts was expected on the back of rising prices for gasoline, but the numbers suggest Canadians were in a spending mood beyond the extra cost of filling up their tanks. New car dealers saw a 3.1 per cent increase in sales, while strong gains were also recorded at general merchandise stores and supermarkets.

-The retail figures will restore confidence the nation's economy is poised for a better start to this year, after the economic expansion nearly came to a halt at the end 2018.

-While first quarter gross domestic product numbers won't be released until the end of next month, there were a series of negative readings in February for exports and manufacturing that raised questions around growth for that month. February GDP data is due April 30.

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-In volume terms, retail sales were up 0.2 per cent in February.

-Sales were up in only five of 11 subsectors, but those sectors were the largest ones and represent 73 per cent of total sales.

-Excluding autos, sales were up 0.6 per cent -- topping expectations for a 0.2 per cent gain. That follows a 0.6 per cent decline for this gauge in January.