U.S. retail sales rose a less-than-expected 0.1 percent in February despite firm automotive sales as building materials and general merchandise sales slumped, a Commerce Department report showed on Tuesday.

Excluding the automotive sector, February retail sales fell 0.1 percent, contrary to market consensus.

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Analysts surveyed by Reuters were expecting a 0.3 percent gain in both overall retail sales and sales excluding the automotive sector — considered a more reliable gauge of household spending.

January's overall sales were unchanged from the preliminary flat reading. Excluding autos, sales were up 0.2 percent in January compared with a 0.3 percent gain in the preliminary report.

Motor vehicle and parts dealer sales rose 0.9 percent in February compared with a 0.9 decline in January, while gasoline station sales jumped 1.2 percent last month, when crude oil prices were trending downwards, after a 0.5 percent drop in January.

Sales of building materials dropped 1.4 percent in February after a 0.2 percent dip the month before as cold weather curbed construction across much of the continental United States and concerns grew over the financial health of the U.S. housing market.

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