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MasterCard stats chart retail surge

U.S. retail sales, excluding automobile sales, rallied in May to a 4.4 percent year-over-year increase, according to the latest “Spending Pulse” report from MasterCard Advisors, the professional services arm of Purchase-based MasterCard Worldwide.

Needs, except fuel, appear to be trumping baubles, MasterCard reported. Remove gasoline from the equation – as consumers appear to be doing – and the picture is even rosier.

MasterCard reported Q1 of 2013 retail sales witnessed 2.6 percent year-over-year growth.

“Retail sales haven’t been this robust since November of last year,” said Sarah Quinlan, senior vice president for market insights, MasterCard Advisors. “This gain is most likely due to the ‘wealth effect’ of a stronger real estate market and high stock market indices. However, our analysis shows that people are still spending cautiously and focusing on needs rather than wants. This is reflected in the weak sales for sectors such as electronics and department stores.”

The report also showed that the uptick in retail sales was not hampered by lower spending on gasoline, which only slightly benefited from a Memorial Day holiday boost. When gasoline is removed from the metrics, total retail sales increased 5.3 percent compared with May 2012.

Airline sales were also down for the fifth month in a row, while online shopping continued to post double-digit gains year-over-year.

The company factors more than 80 billion anonymous transactions to compute its findings.

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