NEW YORK - Americans spent more during the early spring months in the latest sign that they're encouraged by the economic recovery.
Falling gas prices, a rallying stock market and gains in the job market all fueled Americans' shopping habits, even as cold weather tempered their desire to buy spring fashions.
Revenue at stores open at least a year - an industry measure of a store's health because it excludes results from stores recently opened and closed - rose 4.7 percent in April compared with the same month a year ago, according to a preliminary tally of 12 retailers by the International Council of Shopping Centers.
That continues a trend that Americans started in early spring. In March, revenue rose 2.2 percent. And for the combined months of March and April, the figure rose 3.5 percent.
While big chains such as Wal-Mart Stores Inc., Target Corp and Macy's Inc. don't report monthly revenue, the stores that do offer economists a snapshot of consumer spending habits. In total, the retailers that report monthly data represent about 6 percent of the $2.4 trillion in U.S. retail industry sales.
Among the big winners for April were Ross Stores Inc. and TJX Cos., which operates TJ Maxx and Marshalls stores. Both companies benefited from Americans' desire to buy brand-name fashions at discounted prices.