Retail Sales Fall Most in 6 Months as Consumers Avoid Car Lots

Consumers cut back on their shopping in August by the largest amount in six months as declining auto sales offset gains in other areas.

Retail sales dropped 0.2 percent last month after a 0.3 percent gain in July, the Commerce Department said Friday. It was the biggest one-month decline since a 0.2 percent decline in February. Auto sales sank 1.6 percent in August, the most in seven months.

Excluding autos and gas, which tend to be volatile from month to month, sales dipped 0.1 percent in August after having risen 0.5 percent in July.

Still, thanks to a still-solid job market, economists generally remain upbeat about retail sales in coming months, with many saying they expect consumer spending to grow at a solid 2.5 percent rate in the July-September quarter.

Sales rose last month at general merchandise stores, a category that includes big-box retailers such as Target. Rising gasoline prices

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