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Retail sales rose +0.2% in August from the previous month, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. This was less the expected increase of +0.5%. Year-over-year, retail sales were up +4.7%.

Auto sales were particularly strong, rising +1.0% from July and +12.3% year-over-year. Excluding this category, retail sales were up just +0.1% from July and +3.3% year-over-year. However, falling gas prices were a drag on overall sales. Excluding gasoline, but including autos, retail sales rose +5.4% on a y-o-y basis.

This chart below from Calculated Risk Blog shows the year-over-year change in retail sales, excluding gasoline, over the last 20 years. You can see that annual sales growth remains in the 4-6% range, where it has been stuck since early 2012:

In addition to autos, furniture sales were strong, rising +0.9% from July and +4.9% year-over-year.

What do you make of the fact that consumers are spending considerably more money on big ticket items like cars and furniture, but not so much on smaller items? Is this a bullish or a bearish sign for the economy? Chime in below.

Zacks Releases Their 7 Best Stocks for September, 2014

These 7 were hand-picked from the list of 220 Zacks Rank #1 Strong Buys with earnings estimate revisions that are sweeping upward. Their stock prices are expected to rise sooner than the others.

Today, this Special Report is available to new Zacks.com visitors free of charge.

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