Retail sales rose 0.3 percent in January, ending a two-month slide and beating expectations.

The Census Bureau reported Thursday that U.S. consumers spent $427.2 billion on goods and services in February, in its first estimate of retail spending.

The Census also revised down its estimates for January, from a 0.4 to a 0.6 percent decline. Retail fell in December and January, adjusted for seasonal fluctuations.

Nevertheless, sales for past three months are overall up 2.3 percent from the same period a year ago.

February's gains were led by sales related to sports, hobbies and music. Auto sales were also up 0.3 percent.

That last number might be an indication of persisting underlying strength in the economy, given that auto sales are sensitive to weather and fell significantly in January.

Separately, the Labor Department reported Thursday morning that initial claims for unemployment insurance fell from 324,000 to 315,000, an unexpected decline and a hopeful sign.