People have suddenly started buying cars. At least that is the implication from recent data that has surprised markets and delighted economists scrutinising the garden for the oft-cited green shoots of recovery.

First it was the United States. Yes, on a yearly basis sales plunged, but on a month-by-month comparison with February, things look a lot better. Eg, General Motors sales plunged 45 percent in March from a year earlier, but it said they were up 23 percent over February. It reckoned that increase was U.S. industry-wide, too.

Then came Germany, Europe’s biggest automaker. Car sales jumped 40 percent in March.

This is resonating with economists. Barclays Capital calculates that, globally, car sales may have risen some 4.5 percent. Advisors Lombard Street Research reckons the U.S. data implies positive real consumer growth for the first quarter.  “The annual rate of GDP decline could be 3 percent, about half the consensus forecast decline,” it said.

(Reuters photo: Mike Cassese)