Autos Save Retail Sales From Sharp Decline

U.S. retail sales fell less than expected in October on a rise in auto sales, but fell more than anticipated when vehicles were excluded as gasoline sales continued to slide, a Commerce Department report showed on Tuesday.

Retail vending fell 0.2 percent in the month, the report said. Analysts polled by Reuters were expecting a 0.4 percent drop.

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Auto sales rose 0.6 percent in October, after a 0.7 percent rise in sales in September that was originally reported as a flat month.

Retail sales fell 0.4 percent when autos and parts were stripped out. Analysts were expecting sales to slip by 0.2 percent excluding autos.

Gasoline prices, which in October dipped to their lowest price so far in 2006, were reflected in a 6.0 percent decline in sales at gasoline stations. Gas prices hit a summer high of $3.04 a gallon in early August but slipped to $2.21 a gallon by October.

Excluding gasoline, overall retail sales rose 0.4 percent.

Sales fell at furniture stores, building supplies dealers, department stores, and sporting goods and hobby stores.

Many of September's data were revised to reflect weaker sales than originally reported. Retail sales were down 0.8 percent, after originally being reported as a 0.4 percent decline. When cars were excluded, sales tumbled 1.2 percent in that month, after first being reported as a 0.5 percent drop.

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