WASHINGTON — Retail sales increased by a seasonally adjusted 1.0% in February, the largest gain in four months, as shoppers scooped up autos and merchandise goods, the Commerce Department reported Friday.

Sales excluding autos increased 0.7% for the month, while sales excluding autos and gasoline purchases — a less volatile figure — rose 0.6%.

Sales of motor vehicles and parts continued to strengthen, gaining 2.3% in February.

This followed a 1.2% increase in January and a 2.3% rise in December.

Economists expected retail sales would increase 1.0% in February and sales excluding autos would increase 0.6%, according to the median estimate from Thomson Reuters.

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