WASHINGTON - Retail sales jumped 0.9% to $406.7 billion in August after climbing a revised 0.6% in July, the Commerce Department reported Friday.

The sales increase represents the largest advance since a 1% increase in February. The July increase was originally reported as a 0.8% advance.

The strong sales figure surpassed the expectations of economists polled by Thomson Reuters, who predicted a 0.7% median gain. On a year-over-year unadjusted basis, retail sales were up 4.7% for August 2012, compared to August 2011.

The 0.9% sales increase came on the strength of a 5.5% increase in gasoline station sales, the largest increase for that category since November 2009. Excluding gas sales, retail sales rose 0.3%.

Excluding automobile sales, retail transactions were up 0.8% in August after rising by that same figure in July. Economists had projected retail sales excluding autos would rise 0.6% for the month.

Excluding both autos and gas, retail sales rose 0.1% in August after climbing 0.8% the previous month. Excluding autos, gas, and building materials, sales rose by 0.3% after a 0.7% increase in July.

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