Falling auto sales drive US retail sales down 0.3 percent

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WASHINGTON (AP) — Americans cut back on purchases of cars, furniture and a variety of other products in January, pushing retail sales down by 0.3 percent, the biggest decline in 11 months.

The Commerce Department said Wednesday that the January decline, following no change in December, was the largest setback since a 0.5 percent fall in February of last year.

The slowdown follows three sizzling months from September through November, gains that propelled holiday sales to the strongest showing in a decade.

The January weakness was larger than had been expected and could trim overall growth forecasts for the current quarter. Many analysts have been forecasting the economy could expand at a solid 3 percent pace in the current quarter in large part because of a belief that consumer spending will remain strong.

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