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U.S. retail sales unexpectedly rose in October as an increase in purchases of motor vehicles and a range of other goods offset a decline in demand for building materials, suggesting consumer spending remained fairly strong early in the fourth quarter.
The Commerce Department said on Wednesday retail sales increased 0.2 percent last month. Data for September was revised to show sales jumping 1.9 percent rather than the previously reported 1.6 percent advance.
Retail sales increased 4.6 percent on an annual basis.
Economists polled by Reuters had forecast that retail sales would be unchanged in October. The slowdown from September's robust pace largely reflected an unwinding of the boost to building materials and gasoline prices after recent hurricanes.
Receipts at auto dealerships increased 0.7 percent after soaring 4.6 percent in September. Sales at gardening and building material stores fell 1.2 percent last month after surging 3.0 percent in September.
Receipts at service stations decreased 1.2 percent in October. That followed a 6.4 percent gain in September. Excluding automobiles, gasoline, building materials and food services, retail sales increased 0.3 percent last month after climbing 0.5 percent in September.
These so-called core retail sales correspond most closely with the consumer spending component of gross domestic product. Last month's increase in core retail sales indicated a healthy pace of consumer spending at the start of the fourth quarter.
Consumer spending, which accounts for more than two-thirds of U.S. economic activity, increased at a 2.4 percent annualized rate in the third quarter.
Last month, sales at electronics and appliance stores rose 0.7 percent. Receipts at clothing stores climbed 0.8 percent in October, the biggest advance since March.
Sales at online retailers fell 0.3 percent. Receipts at restaurants and bars gained 0.8 percent after edging up 0.1 percent in September. Sales at sporting goods and hobby stores soared 1.5 percent.