WASHINGTON (AP) -- U.S. consumers increased their spending at retail businesses in December, buying more autos, furniture and clothing. The solid gain was evidence that consumers kept spending despite a tense debate in Congress over tax increases.
The Commerce Department says retail sales rose 0.5 percent in December from November.
A 1.6 percent jump in sales of autos and auto parts led all categories. Car companies closed out their best sales year since 2007.
Total retail spending would have been even stronger if not for a decline in gas prices. Excluding a 1.6 percent decline in gas station sales, retail spending increased 0.8 percent.