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US retail sales leapt 1.6 pct. last month, most in 2 1/2 years

Last Updated Oct 13, 2017 at 6:00 am PST

WASHINGTON – Americans increased their spending at retailers last month by the most in two and a half years, driven by strong auto sales as residents of hurricane-ravaged areas replaced destroyed cars.

The Commerce Department says retail sales rose 1.6 per cent in September, after slipping 0.1 per cent in August. Auto sales jumped 3.6 per cent, the most since March 2015. Gas sales climbed 5.8 per cent, the most in four and a half years, likely reflecting price spikes after Hurricanes Harvey and Irma.

Even excluding the volatile auto and gas categories, sales rose a solid 0.5 per cent, up from a 0.1 per cent gain in August.

Consumers are optimistic about the economy, unemployment has hit a 16-year low, and wages have ticked up in recent months. That should boost spending in the coming months.