By  on April 14, 2014

WASHINGTON — Consumers appeared to shake off the harsh winter in March and stepped up their purchases of everything from autos to apparel, boosting overall retail sales to their highest gain in more than a year and a half, the Commerce Department’s monthly retail sales report showed Monday.

In the overall economy, retail sales rose 1.1 percent to $433.9 billion, surpassing economists’ expectations. It was the largest overall retail sales increase since September 2012 and was primarily driven by a 3.1 percent spike in auto-related sales, although the gains were seen across many sectors.

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