U.S. retail sales fell sharply last month as gas prices plummeted and auto sales slowed. But excluding those volatile categories, Americans stepped up their spending a bit.
The Commerce Department says retail sales dropped 0.8 percent in January, following a 0.9 percent decline in December. The dollar value of gas station sales plunged 9.3 percent, the largest drop in six years. Auto dealer sales also fell for the second straight month.
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Outside those categories, sales increased 0.2 percent after a flat reading in December.
The modest gain suggests Americans are still cautious about spending their windfall from lower gas prices, which economists expect will save the typical family $750 this year. Cheaper gas and strong hiring have sent consumer confidence to seven-year highs, a sign spending should pick up soon.