Retail sales rose a seasonally adjusted 0.4 percent last month, slowing down from a solid 1 percent gain in December, the Commerce Department said today.

Overall sales likely pulled back from a December bump in holiday shopping online and at auto dealers, while Americans spent more than normally expected last month at clothiers, department stores, electronics outlets and sporting goods retailers.

Higher gas prices drove a 2.3 percent sales increase at service stations last month. Gasoline prices climbed 7.8 percent between January and December, according to a separate Labor Department report released today. The retail sales report does not adjust its figures for prices.

Purchases at restaurants and bars climbed 1.4 percent. Building materials stores saw a slight 0.3 percent gain.

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