retail

Retail sales in the U.S. dropped in March by the most in nine months, pointing to a slowdown in consumer spending as the first quarter drew to a close.

Purchases fell 0.4 percent, the biggest setback since June, after jumping 1 percent in February, according to Commerce Department figures issued today in Washington. Consumer sentiment took a hit this month after employment cooled, a report from Thomson Reuters/University of Michigan also showed.

The sales data prompted economists to trim consumer- spending forecasts from what was projected to be the best quarter in two years. Gains in hiring and wages will be needed to ensure any slowdown proves temporary as federal budget cuts and an increase in the payroll tax restrain the expansion.