WASHINGTON - Retail sales rose 0.8% to $403.9 billion in July after declining a revised 0.7% in June, the Commerce Department reported Tuesday.

The June decrease was originally reported as a 0.5% slip.

The July increase was beyond the expectations of economists polled by Thomson Reuters, who predicted a 0.3% median gain.

On a year over year unadjusted basis, retail sales were up 4.1% for 2012, compared to July 2011.

Excluding autos, retail sales were up 0.8% in July after dropping 0.8% in June. Economists had projected retail sales excluding autos to rise 0.4% for the month.

Excluding autos and gas, retail sales jumped 0.9% in July after falling 0.4% the previous month and excluding autos, gas, and building materials, sales rose by 0.9% after falling 0.3% in June.

The sales increase occurred in all categories of business, and was especially strong amongst home furnishings and furniture stores as well as health and personal care stores and sporting goods, hobby, book and music stores. Sales in those categories all jumped more than 1.0%.

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