Retail sales in Canada posted the biggest gain in 10 months in March, as the nation's consumers emerge from a months-long spending slump.

The 1.1 per cent sales gain on the month followed a 1 per cent gain in February, Statistics Canada said Wednesday in Ottawa. In volume terms, sales were up 0.3 per cent, adding to a 0.4 per cent gain the previous month. The March increase came despite a decline in auto sales.

Key Insights

-A pick-up in receipts was expected on the back of rising prices for gasoline, but the numbers over the past two months suggest Canadians are more in a spending mood beyond the extra cost of filling up their tanks. Excluding cars and gasoline, sales were up 1 per cent in March and 1.1 per cent in volume terms.

-The gain in March helped retailers eke out a 0.1 per cent increase in the first quarter, after a 0.5 per cent drop in the fourth quarter.

-The two straight monthly advances come after a run of three monthly declines.

-In volume terms, retail sales dropped 0.1 per cent in the first quarter, after a 0.2 per cent drop in the last three months of 2018. This means the sector will be slightly less of a drag in first quarter GDP data out later this month, while the stronger volume gain in March bodes well for a better second quarter.

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-The big negatives in the report were car and auto part sales, which fell 0.7 per cent in March and posted an even bigger decline in volume terms. Car sales are the largest retail industry.

-Sales were higher in 7 of 11 subsectors

-Economists had estimated a 1.2 per cent gain in retail sales

-Excluding autos, sales were up 1.7 per cent -- topping expectations for a 0.9 per cent gain.

-Gasoline sales rose six per cent in March