U.S. retail sales fell in September for the first time in eight months and the decline would have been even sharper if not for the release of the new iPhones, showing a continued reluctance among Americans to splurge on consumer goods. Sales at retail outlets fell a seasonally adjusted 0.3% last month, chiefly because of lower purchases of cars, trucks and gasoline, the Commerce Department said Wednesday. Economists polled by MarketWatch had forecast a 0.3% decline. Yet even if autos and gas are excluded, retail purchases fell 0.1% last month. Internet retailers, apparel outlets and home-improvement stores all saw a decline in sales. The one bright spot: electronics stores, whose sales jumped 3.4% to mark the biggest gain in a year and a half. They benefited from Apple's launch of the iPhone 6. Retail sales account for about one-fourth of consumer spending, the main engine of U.S. economic activity. Sales have risen 4.3% in the past 12 months, about two-thirds the historic growth rate.
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