Official figures show that US retail sales surged by a stronger than expected 1% in May, the best figure since November. Core retail sales, which strip out cars, increased by 1.2%, the Commerce Department said in a monthly survey.

The readings are likely to boost the positions of some economists that the US economy will not slump into a recession this year.

The headline and core readings in the report were better than expected. Most analysts had predicted a 0.6% rise in total retail and a 0.7% increase in core sales.

The sales surge comes as a $168 billion economic stimulus package delivers tax rebates to millions of Americans. The Bush administration believes the move will fire up consumer spending, a key motor of economic growth.