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Retail sales inch up

WASHINGTON — Hit hard by rising gas prices and unsettled weather across parts of the country, retail sales limped ahead a skimpy 0.3 percent in March, the Commerce Department reported.

When rising car sales are eliminated from the equation, the overall gain at retail was even smaller, sales inching up just one-tenth of a percentage point. Gas stations, which climbed 2.1 percent, were by far the biggest winners at retail — and pulled disposable dollars away from almost every other category, the Commerce Department reported.

The other big winner during March was the do-it-yourself channel, with sales at building material and garden supplies outlets climbing 1.5 percent.

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