U.S. retailers reported strong sales in October, a sign American consumers were spending with more gusto and could help keep the economy growing at a brisk pace.
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U.S. retail sales rose a higher-than-expected 0.5 percent last month when stripping out volatile elements like gasoline, autos, building materials and food services, according to the Commerce Department data released on Friday.
The increase was the largest since August and supports the view that U.S. consumers are ready to play a bigger role in supporting the recent acceleration in U.S. economic growth.
"(The) numbers bode well for the crucial holiday shopping season," said Paul Diggle, an economist at Capital Economics in London.
Analysts expect the U.S. economy will expand about 3 percent next year, which would be faster than the average growth rates clocked since the country emerged from the 2007-09 recession.
Retail sales account for about one-third of consumer spending, which in turn accounts for most economic activity, and overall sales rose 0.3 percent. The overall number would have been larger but for a 1.5 percent drop in receipts at gasoline retailers.
But even that is a good sign for the economy.
"Consumers are spending what they are saving at the gas pump," said Camilla Sutton, a currency strategist at Scotiabank in Toronto.
The Labor Department said import prices fell 1.3 percent in September, the biggest decline in more than two years as the cost of petroleum products fell and a strong dollar made it cheaper for Americans to buy goods from abroad.
While the U.S. economy has accelerated in recent months, the global economy has appeared to slow, including in China, and the price of oil has weakened significantly.
The dollar has gained more than 10 percent against the currencies of U.S. trading partners since June on expectations a stronger U.S. economy will lead the Federal Reserve to raise interest rates, and Friday's data led it to rise a little more against the yen and the euro. U.S. Treasury yields also rose.
The retail sales report showed sales at clothing retailers increased 0.5 percent in October and receipts at sporting goods shops gained 1.2 percent.
Receipts at auto dealers and parts stores climbed 0.5 percent.
(Reporting by Jason Lange in Washington; Additional reporting by Michael Connor in New York; Editing by Andrea Ricci)
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