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BOOST IN AUTOMOBILE PURCHASES HELPS FUEL .8% RISE IN RETAIL SALES

Retail sales rose 0.8 percent in August after remaining unchanged the previous month, the government said Wednesday.

The advance, in line with analysts' expectations, was spurred by a recovery in automobile sales and higher sales of other durable goods. The August showing may have been helped as well by back-to-school shopping, analysts said.The Commerce Department said all sales totaled a seasonally adjusted $186.6 billion, up from a revised $185.1 billion in July. The July figure originally was estimated to be $184.8 billion.

Retail sales posted a 0.9 percent increase in June after holding steady in May and falling 1 percent in April.

The August gain was anticipated as car sales rebounded from a decline blamed on low supplies of popular models.

Still, consumer spending has weakened in recent months as interest rates have climbed. After rising at a 4.7 percent annual rate in the first quarter, spending advanced at just a 1.2 percent rate in the next three months. Retail sales represent about half of consumer expenditures.

Sales of durable goods, items expected to last more than three years, climbed 1.3 percent in August following a 0.6 percent decline.

Dealers said automobile sales rose 1.2 percent after a 1.6 percent drop in July. Excluding autos, sales were up 0.7 percent.

Other durable goods sectors also posted gains. Sales of building materials, hardware and garden supplies were up 2.2 percent after slipping 0.2 percent in July. Sales of furniture and other home furnishings rose 1.7 percent, after remaining unchanged the previous month.

Nondurable goods such as groceries and gasoline were up 0.4 percent following July's 0.5 percent rise.

Department stores rang up their second straight 0.4 percent increase in sales. Apparel sales advanced 2 percent after falling 0.5 percent.

Sales at grocery stores edged up 0.2 percent, on top of a 0.3 percent gain in July. But restaurants and bars were down 0.9 percent following a 1.5 percent increase. Drug store sales were up 0.3 percent after rising 1.2 percent.

Despite rising prices, gasoline sales advanced this summer. They rose 1 percent in August on top of a 0.9 percent increase the previous months.