WASHINGTON — Retail sales at U.S. stores fell 0.4% in December after a downward revised 1.0% rise in December, while sales excluding motor vehicles and parts also posted a 0.4% decline, according to data released yesterday by the Commerce Department.

The December decreases were below expectations and resulted from declines in a number of components, including a 1.7% drop in gasoline sales after three consecutive strong increases.

Motor vehicle sales fell 0.4%, their third straight decline.

For 2007 as whole, overall retail sales rose 4.2%, a slower pace than the 5.9% gain in 2006. Even more dramatic was the slowdown in non-motor vehicle sales, which posted a 4.6% rise in 2007 compared with a 7.2% gain in 2006.

— Market News International

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