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January 15, 2013 10:15 AM, EST

December Retail Sales Rise 0.5%

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.