WASHINGTON (AP) — Americans bought more cars, furniture and electronics in August but held back spending on most other retail purchases.
The Commerce Department says spending at retail businesses rose 0.2 percent last month, the smallest gain in four months. Excluding volatile spending on autos, gas and building supplies, sales increased 0.2 percent, less than half July's 0.5 percent gain.
The modest retail sales figures suggest consumers may be growing more cautious about spending, which could slow economic growth in the July-September quarter. Retail sales are closely watched because they're the government's first look at consumer spending, which accounts for 70 percent of economic activity.
Sales of autos and furniture both jumped 0.9 percent. Electronics and appliance sales rose 0.8 percent. But clothing sales dropped 0.8 percent and sporting goods sales also fell.