Retail sales up 0.3 percent in February

Gap employee Kim Nguyen helps a customer at a Gap store on February 20, 2014 in San Francisco, California. Justin Sullivan, Getty Images

WASHINGTON - U.S. retail sales bounced back in February after suffering a steep decline during a bitterly cold January. Shoppers spent more on autos, clothing and furniture.

The Commerce Department says seasonally-adjusted retail sales rose 0.3 percent in February. Spending had fallen 0.6 percent in January and 0.3 percent in December.

The increase suggests that consumer spending has started to recover after being tempered by snowstorms and freezing temperatures that blanketed much of the country.

Auto sales rose 0.3 percent. Excluding volatile spending on autos, gas and building supplies, retail sales increased 0.3 percent from December.

Last month's rebound almost brought retail spending back to its December levels. Purchases at restaurants, online retailers and department stores also improved.

Over the past 12 months, retail sales have risen 1.5 percent.

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