ECONOMY

More pay, greater confidence lifts US retail sales 0.6 pct.

Americans stepped up their auto buying and holiday shopping in December, reflecting a boost in confidence after the election and a solid increase in hourly pay.

The Commerce Department says retail sales rose a seasonally adjusted 0.6 percent, following a small 0.2 percent gain in November.

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. Consumer confidence has soared after the election, reaching the highest levels 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.