U.S. retail sales (search) increased by 0.1 percent in November, the Commerce Department (search) said on Monday, slightly stronger than expectations, while the previous month was revised sharply higher.

Wall Street had forecast a 0.1 percent drop in November sales following indications of softness from consumer surveys, weaker car sales (search) and a soft patch in October. But the Commerce Department revised up October's result to a 0.8 percent increase from an initially reported 0.2 percent gain.

Economists scrutinize retail sales as a dominant component in consumer spending, which in turn make up two-thirds of U.S. economic output. The numbers seemed to support other signs of a moderate ongoing expansion as oil prices eased back from as peak above $55 a barrel in October.

Excluding autos, which can swing sharply from month to month, retail sales were up 0.5 percent compared with forecasts for a 0.3 percent advance and versus an upwardly revised 1.1 percent increase in October. On a 12-month basis, retail sales excluding autos have grown by 8.6 percent.

Sales of motor vehicles and parts shrank 1.3 percent, a performance that had been anticipated following industry reports of a weak month amid signs that consumers were holding back in the hope of better bargains in December.

But building material and furniture sales delivered a solid 1.1 percent advance, reflecting the continued strength of the housing sector.