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U.S. retail sales rose at a solid pace last month, evidence that Americans were willing to spend during the winter holidays after a sluggish November.

As reported by The Associated Press, the Commerce Department said today (Jan. 16) that retail sales increased 0.3% in December from the previous month. Excluding sales at car dealers and gas stations, sales rose 0.5%, the best in five months.

Low unemployment and widespread hiring are fueling consumer confidence. Shoppers have become the primary driver of the economy’s growth as businesses have reined in their investment in machinery and equipment and exports have slowed.

Still, economists said the positive December figures were partially offset by downward revisions to October and November sales. That suggests consumer spending likely grew more slowly in the final three months of last year than previously expected.

“The December numbers look good in isolation, but they are tempered by downward revisions to prior data,” Ian Shepherdson, chief economist at Pantheon Macroeconomics, said.

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