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Retail sales up but home furnishings flat

WASHINGTON -- Easily beating Wall Street expectations of a 0.1 percent slide, retail sales edged up 0.1 percent in November, and climbed even faster, 0.5 percent, once highly volatile auto sales are pulled out of the equation, the U.S. Commerce Department reported.

Underlining the surprising strength of retail sales, October was revised sharply upward, to a gain of 0.8 percent, compared with the 0.2 percent gain the government reported earlier.

Putting downward pressure on overall sales was a 1.4 percent decline in car sales, weakening further after a 0.7 percent drop in October, as consumers put the brake on buying, waiting for lower prices late in the year.

By channel, the biggest gainer during November was building materials and garden supplies, which advanced 1.1 percent, followed by electronics and appliance stores, up 1 percent. Sales at furniture and home furnishings stores were flat.

Among the few losers, in addition to cars, were clothing and accessory stores and department stores, both declining 0.1 percent.

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