WASHINGTON (Reuters) — Shoppers turned out in force in March, a Commerce Department report Tuesday showed, pushing retail sales to their strongest gain in a year.

The Commerce Department said retail sales rose an unexpectedly sharp 1.8% in March to a seasonally adjusted $333.01 billion, the biggest gain since March 2003. Excluding cars and trucks, sales gained 1.7%, that category’s best performance since March 2000. Wall Street analysts had expected both figures to advance 0.6%.

February sales were also revised upward, to a 1.0% increase from the previously reported 0.7% gain. February ex-auto sales were revised to a 0.6% increase from a previously reported flat reading

This ties in rather well with the story below about Kerry’s fantasy index. Captain Ed over at Captain’s Quarters thinks so, too, saying, in part:

John Kerry faces a difficult task: selling the notion of a failing economy to a nation that demonstrates growing confidence in its success. Sooner or later, that message will face its tipping point, and Kerry will wind up with egg on his face. Expect to see Kerry continue to find arcane methods of measuring economic performance, such as his suggested “misery index”, which laughingly showed strong economic growth during the Carter presidency.

(OK, I should have figured some way to work Ed’s thing in as an update to the earlier post, I guess, but I’m rather busy today with work) -Bit