NEW: US retail sales inch up, but holiday spending weak - WLTZ 38 | Columbus Georgia Regional News & Community

NEW: US retail sales inch up, but holiday spending weak

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WASHINGTON (AP) — Americans spent more on clothing and online in December. But they cut back almost everywhere else to end the holiday shopping season on a lackluster note.

The Commerce Department says retail sales rose just 0.2 percent last month. That follows strong gains in October and November, helped by healthy auto sales.

In December, auto sales fell 1.8 percent. That offset a similar increase at gas stations, largely driven by rising prices. Excluding volatile spending on autos, gas and building supplies, retail sales rose a solid 0.7 percent.

However, traditional holiday spending was disappointing. Americans spent less on furniture and electronics. And sales at department stores fell 0.7 percent in December — and 3.3 percent for the year.

In 2013, retail sales rose 4.2 percent, the weakest in four years.

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