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Brisk Retail Sales Point to More Spending Zeal by US Consumers

Des Moines newlyweds, Bob Jackson, 70 (not pictured), and Rita Jackson, 68, shop at JCPenney after being presented a $5,000 JCPenney gift card on Nov. 11, 2014 in West Des Moines, Iowa.

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.

U.S. retail sales rose 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.

That was the biggest increase since August and just above analyst expectations of a 0.4 percent gain.

Revised data also showed this gage of sales, which hews closely to overall consumer spending, was unchanged in September. Data released last month had shown a decline in this core measure in September.

Retail sales account for about one-third of consumer spending, and overall they rose 0.3 percent, held back by a 1.5 percent drop in receipts at gasoline retailers. Economists polled by Reuters had expected a 0.2 percent gain.

The drop in gasoline sales reflects falling oil prices that are generally positive for the U.S. economy because less spending on fuel will free up money to spend on other things.

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.