WASHINGTON — Retail sales at U.S. stores rose 0.2% in March, above expectations due to gains in both motor vehicle sales and gasoline station sales as well as food, with mixed readings for the remaining components, data released yesterday by the Commerce Department showed.

Excluding the 0.2% gain in motor vehicle sales, retail sales rose 0.1%, but were flat when a 1.1% gain in gas station sales was also removed. Total retail sales were stronger than the flat reading expected. Sales excluding motor vehicles were slightly below the 0.2% gain expected.

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