WASHINGTON — Retail sales increased more than economists expected in August, rising 0.4% to post their strongest gain in five months, the Commerce Department reported Tuesday.

Excluding auto sales, retail sales increased 0.6%, their largest expansion since March. Excluding autos, gasoline and building material, retail was up 0.5% for the month. Economists expected 0.3% gains for August retail sales and retail sales excluding autos, according to the median estimate from Thomson Reuters.

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