WASHINGTON – With the auto sales surge helping offset sagging department and general merchandise store sales, December's retail sales almost met expectations with a 0.6% increase, the Commerce Department reported Friday.

Retail sales showed autos and parts up 2.4%, as anticipated, and without counting the autos category, sales were up only 0.2%, much weaker than the expected 0.5% gain.

Core retail sales, stripping out the most volatile elements of autos, restaurants, gasoline and building materials, rose 0.2% after being unchanged in November.

November's overall retail sales were revised up a tenth to a 0.2% increase. October sales had gone up 0.7%.

For all of 2016, without seasonal adjustment, sales rose 3.3%, after the previous year's 2.3%. For 2014 and 2013 sales had gone up 4.2% and 3.6%.

Other than autos, December's strongest gains were for gasoline stations, up 2.0%, nonstore retails including electronic shopping and mail order, up 1.3%, furniture and building materials.

Market News International is a real-time global news service for fixed-income and foreign exchange market professionals. See www.marketnews.com.

Market News International is a real-time global news service for fixed-income and foreign exchange market professionals. See www.marketnews.com.