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Retail Sales Rise 0.2 Percent in August

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WASHINGTON (AP) — Americans bought more cars, furniture and electronics in August but held back spending on most other retail purchases.

The Commerce Department says spending at retail businesses rose 0.2 percent last month, the smallest gain in four months. Excluding volatile spending on autos, gas and building supplies, sales increased 0.2 percent, less than half July’s 0.5 percent gain.

The modest retail sales figures suggest consumers may be growing more cautious about spending, which could slow economic growth in the July-September quarter. Retail sales are closely watched because they’re the government’s first look at consumer spending, which accounts for 70 percent of economic activity.

Sales of autos and furniture both jumped 0.9 percent. Electronics and appliance sales rose 0.8 percent. But clothing sales dropped 0.8 percent and sporting goods sales also fell.

Meanwhile, higher energy costs pushed U.S. wholesale prices up 0.3 percent last month. Prices rose a modest 1.4 percent over the past year, the lowest one-year gain since April.

The Labor Department says that excluding volatile food and energy costs wholesale prices were unchanged in August. They were up 1.1 percent over the past year, smallest gain since June 2010 and another sign that inflation remains under control.

Energy prices climbed in late August as tensions rose over Syria, accounting for two-thirds of the monthly increase in wholesale prices. More expensive vegetables and chicken lifted food prices 0.6 percent in August from July.

The Federal Reserve, which meets next week, closely monitors wholesale and consumer prices, determined to keep inflation running at around 2 percent

Copyright 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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