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Retail sales rose a seasonally adjusted 0.6 percent, following a small 0.2-percent gain in November, the Commerce Department said. Auto sales jumped 2.4 percent in December, the biggest gain since April. Gas station sales rose 2 percent, largely because of higher prices. Excluding autos and gas, retail sales overall were flat.
Still, online retailers in particular reported better sales. Home and garden centers, furniture stores and sporting goods retailers also saw sales grow.
The healthy spending was likely fueled by soaring consumer confidence, which has jumped after the election to the highest level in nearly a decade. Small businesses are also more bullish. And Americans' paychecks are getting fatter: Average hourly pay rose 2.9 percent in December from a year earlier, the most in seven years.
The data reflected the ongoing struggles of traditional brick-and-mortar retail chains as Internet merchants gobble up more market share. Department store sales fell 0.6 percent and electronics and appliance stores reported a 0.5-percent drop.
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