Sales at U.S. retailers surged in October after the first back-to-back declines in more than five years, though most of the money was spent on gas and new cars and trucks.
Retail sales leaped 0.8% last month, the government said Thursday. Economists polled by MarketWatch had predicted a 0.6% increase.
The increase follows small declines in September and August. The government initially said sales rose slightly in both of those months, but it revised the figures lower in its latest update.
That could also result in the government trimming the initially estimated 3.5% growth in gross domestic product in the third quarter.
Sales jumped 3.5% at gas stations, mostly reflecting higher prices at the pump. More spending on fuel is not a good thing for households, but a recent plunge in oil prices signals that price relief is on the way.
Sales of new cars and trucks increased 1.1%, making auto dealers a big winner.
When Americans have to spend more money on gas or they buy big-ticket items such as cars, they have less cash to spend on other items. Overall retail sales rose a much more modest 0.3% if gas and autos are stripped out.
Department stores reported a 1.3% increase in sales and home centers saw a 1% gain. Sales fell for restaurants and stores that sell home furnishings, reflecting a recent slowdown in the housing market as U.S. interest rates rise.
Sales may have been affected by hurricanes Florence,and Michael, but the government said it could not determine how much.