U.S. retail sales over the Internet and other electronic networks rose a seasonally adjusted 7.0 percent in the first quarter of 2006, the biggest quarterly jump in two and a half years, the Commerce Department said on Thursday.

Purchases over the Internet, by e-mail or through other electronic networks rose to a seasonally adjusted .218 billion in the January-March period from an upwardly revised .569 billion. They were up 25.4 percent from a year earlier.

E-commerce sales accounted for a record 2.6 percent of total retail sales, a new record for the sixth quarter in a row and up from 2.5 percent in the fourth quarter of 2005, the Commerce Department said.
Total retail sales for the first quarter rose 3.2 percent versus the previous quarter to 6.110 billion and were up 8.1 percent from a year earlier.

E-commerce sales include goods and services negotiated via the Internet but exclude online travel services, ticket sales and the services of financial brokers and dealers.

The United States began first publishing data on e-commerce transactions in 1999. The government collects sales data from about 11,000 retail firms out of what it estimates to be over 2 million such companies.

Source: Reuters