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Confident consumers lift US retail sales in December

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Confident consumers lift US retail sales in December

WASHINGTON —
U.S. retail sales rose at a solid pace last month, evidence that Americans were willing to spend during the winter holidays after a sluggish November.

The Commerce Department said Thursday that retail sales increased 0.3% in December from the previous month. Excluding sales at car dealers and gas stations, sales rose 0.5%, the best in five months.

Low unemployment and widespread hiring are fueling consumer confidence. Shoppers have become the primary driver of the economy’s growth as businesses have reined in their investment in machinery and equipment and exports have slowed.

Holiday shopping got off to a slow start in November, with sales excluding autos and gas actually dropping 0.2%. But sales rose in December at electronics and appliance stores, home and garden centers, grocery stores, and clothing shops.

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