US retail sales edged higher in August, helped by gains in auto sales, according to Commerce Department data released Tuesday.
Retail sales rose 0.2 percent in August, slightly below analysts' consensus estimate. The July reading was revised up a tenth point to 0.7 percent.
Motor vehicle and parts sales climbed 0.7 percent. Excluding auto, retail sales were up 0.1 percent.
There was a 1.8 percent fall in sales at gasoline stations in August reflecting lower gas prices, according to the data that is not adjusted for price changes.
Other businesses seeing weaker sales included building material and garden equipment stores and furniture and home furnishings retailers.
Consumers boosted their spending at grocery stores, restaurants and bars as the summer holiday season was winding down.
The retail sales report was one of the few remaining US data points ahead of the Federal Reserve's two-day monetary policy meeting that begins Wednesday. Speculation is divided over whether the Fed will deem the economy strong enough to withstand the first rate hike since 2006.
Retail sales point to the health of consumer spending, which accounts for about two-thirds of the US economy's output. But they are a smaller factor than spending on services, the bulk of the economy.
For the period from June through August were up 2.2 percent from the same period a year ago, the department said.
Ian Shepherdson of Pantheon Macroeconomics highlighted that retail sales growth had picked up over the past year, despite the impact of falling prices.
People "have chosen to spend some of their gas price windfall on services -- leisure, recreation, travel, etc. -- which aren't included in the retail sales numbers," he said in a client note.
"The nominal sales data, in other words, paint a very misleading picture."