WASHINGTON — Retail sales rose 0.5% to $415.7 billion in December after climbing a revised 0.4% in November, originally reported as a 0.3% increase, the Commerce Department reported Tuesday.

The December sales figure was stronger than the expectations of economists polled by Thomson Reuters, who projected a 0.2% increase. On a year over year unadjusted basis, retail sales were up 4.7% for 2012, compared to December 2011.

Excluding gas sales, retail activity rose 0.8% after advancing 1.0% the previous month. Gasoline sales fell 1.6%.

Excluding automobile sales, retail transactions increased 0.3% in December after falling 0.1% the prior month. The economists projected retail sales excluding autos would be up 0.2%.

Excluding autos, gas, and building materials, sales rose 0.6% after a 0.5% increase in November.

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