U.S. retail sales rose more than expected in August

Retail sales jumped in August, spurred by widespread gains beyond the increases of auto and gasoline sales that economists
expected.

The Commerce Department said today that retail sales rose a seasonally adjusted 2.7 percent last month,
after falling 0.2 percent in July. That beat analysts’ expectations of a 2-percent increase, according to a survey by Thomson
Reuters.

The report is a sign that consumers may be less cautious about spending as the economy recovers. Consumer
spending is closely watched because it accounts for about 70 percent of the nation’s economic activity.

Excluding
autos, sales rose 1.1 percent, ahead of an expected 0.4-percent jump. Excluding autos and gas, sales rose 0.6 percent.

Auto sales soared 10.6 percent, the most in almost eight years, due mainly to the government’s popular Cash for Clunkers
program. Gas station sales rose 5.1 percent, as prices at the pump rose in August. Economists expected increases in both categories,
but sales also rose at electronics and appliance stores, department and sporting goods stores.

The clunkers program,
which ended last month, provided consumers with rebates of up to $4,500 if they traded in older gas-guzzlers for new, more
fuel-efficient models. The incentive boosted car sale 30 percent in August, after a 2.4-percent rise in July.

Many
economists expect consumer spending to increase in the current July-September period, after it fell in the second quarter,
mostly because of the clunkers program. That could cause the economy to grow by as much as 3 percent to 4 percent in the third
quarter, many economists expect, helping to end the worst recession since the 1930s.

But analysts worry that without
consistent consumer spending growth, the recovery could weaken next year, as government stimulus efforts end.

Other
recent economic reports have been positive. Last week, the Federal Reserve said in a regional survey that the economy is stabilizing
or improving in the vast majority of the country.

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