WASHINGTON — Retail sales were up 0.4% in January after remaining virtually unchanged in December, the Commerce Department reported Tuesday.

The January gain was lower than the 0.7% median increase projected by economists polled by Thomson Reuters.

On a year-over-year unadjusted basis, retail sales were up 5.8% compared to January 2011.

Excluding autos, retail sales were up 0.7% in January after falling a revised 0.5% in December.

Economists had projected a 0.5% increase for retail sales excluding autos for January.

Excluding autos and gas, retail sales fell 0.2% in January following an unrevised 0.1% gain the previous month.

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