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Up-again, down-again retail sales are up, again

Pointing toward an improving holiday selling season, consumers pulled out their wallets and headed to the malls during November, pushing total U.S. retail sales up by 0.9 percent, the Commerce Department reported, to a seasonally adjusted level of $322.4 billion.

Fueling the hefty increase was a big run-up in auto sales, which soared by 2.6 percent, to $77.1 billion from $75.1 billion, as the employment outlook appears less clouded and consumer confidence firms, helping sales of big-ticket items.

Pointing to the underlying strength in spending, winners outnumbered decliners by a margin of two-to-one in the 12 major channels of distribution tracked by the agency.

Home goods retailers were among the month's biggest winners, with sales at electronics and appliance stores jumping by 2.2 percent, and sales at furniture and home furnishings outlets advancing by 0.9 percent. Even with colder weather settling in, sales of building materials and garden supplies rose by 0.3 percent.

Helped by colder winter weather, sales at clothing and accessories stores improved by 1.1 percent, recovering from weakness earlier in the year, when sales were hampered by unseasonably wet and cool weather across much of the nation during summer months..

The month's biggest decline was posted by department stores, where sales fell off by 1.1 percent. Fewer dollars went into the sporting goods, hobby, music and books channels as well, with sales off by 0.5 percent.

Retail Sales in November (by channel)

Source: U.S. Department of Commerce
Car dealers +2.6%
Electronics & appliances 2.2
Gas stations 1.6
Health & personal care 1.3
Clothing & accessories 1.1
Furniture & home furnishings 1.0
Building material & garden supplies 0.3
Restaurants & bars 0.3
Department stores -1.1%
Sporting goods, hobby, books & music -0.5
Non-store retailers -0.4
Food & beverage stores -0.3

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