July Retail Sales Rise on Gas

WASHINGTON -- Sales at U.S. retailers increased 0.4 percent in July, but much of the adjusted increase reflected higher gasoline prices, according to a report by MarketWatch, citing the Commerce Department.

Gasoline sales rose 2.3 percent last month, thanks to higher retail prices at the pump. This is the biggest increase since November 2009, the report noted.

Sales rose for the first time in three months, and compared to a year-ago, sales were up 5.5 percent. The month-over-month increase was slightly less than the 0.5 percent forecast by economists surveyed by MarketWatch.

"We are still talking about a steady gradual recovery in the U.S," Chris Liddell, General Motors Co.'s chief financial officer, said in a conference call with analysts Thursday, and cited in the report. Motor vehicle sales rose 1.6 percent in July, the first increase since April.

Excluding autos, retail sales rose 0.2 percent, which was in line with expectations. Compared with the year-ago, sales excluding autos rose 4.9 percent. Excluding both gas and autos, sales fell 0.1 percent on the month, the second drop in the past three months, the report stated.

Jim O'Sullivan, chief economist at MF Global, told MarketWatch consumer spending was running at a "pretty sluggish" 1.5 percent annual rate as the third quarter started. Spending rose at a 1.6 percent rate in the April-June quarter, the report stated.

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