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.

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