US retail sales rebounded in July with strong gains in auto purchasing and solid increases in most other categories, according to Commerce Department data released Thursday.
Overall retail sales rose 0.6 percent in July from June to $446.5 billion, a slightly bigger increase than the 0.5 percent gain projected by analysts.
The Commerce Department also raised its figures for June sales to unchanged from the prior estimate of a 0.3 percent decline.
Auto sales rose 1.4 percent in July, while sales of furniture, building materials, clothing, sporting goods and restaurants all posted smaller gains.
Two categories posted declines: electronics and appliances (-1.2 percent) and department stores and other general merchandise stores (-0.5 percent).
US Federal Reserve officials have said they expect to raise benchmark interest rates in 2015, possibly as soon as September, depending on US economic data.
Ian Shepherdson, chief economist at Pantheon Macroeconomics, said the report was "significantly stronger than expected" and that it "bolsters the case for a September rate hike, at the margin."
Steven Ricchiuto, chief economist at Mizuho Securities USA, said the report "will leave the September rate hike call at 50/50 where it should be given the amount of data still to be released over the next four weeks."