Retail sales rose 0.5% in December, the Commerce Department reported Tuesday.
The increase — which followed a revised 0.4% gain in November that was higher than originally reported — was more than double economists’ median forecast of a 0.2% upturn, Bloomberg News reported.
Nine of 13 major categories showed increases, led by a 1.6% rise at automobile dealers and a 1.4% increase at furniture stores.
Sales excluding automobiles and gasoline rose 0.6% for a second straight month, the strongest such back-to-back showing in more than a year, Bloomberg said.
Retail sales for the full year rose 5.2%, following a 7.9% increase in 2011.