Aug. 15 (UPI) -- Retail spending in the United States increased a half-percent during the month of July -- well beyond what experts predicted.
Commerce Department figures Wednesday showed U.S. households spent more at the mall and restaurants last month, giving retailers a strong July finish. The 0.5 percent boost over June was greater than the 0.1 percent many analysts projected.
The increase represents a stronger-than-expected start to the third quarter. Wednesday's figures, though, revised June's retail numbers downward -- from 0.5 percent to 0.2 percent.
Food and beverage stores increased 0.6 percent last month, the strongest rate of growth since December.
The report showed nine of 13 major retail categories increased, with 1.3 percent gains at clothing stores and 0.6 percent gains in food and beverage stores. Online retailers also fared well, with an increase of 0.8 percent.
Summer road trips led to gas stations gaining 0.7 percent in receipts and auto parts dealers reported a 0.2 percent boost.
The report cited weaker performance in the sporting goods and hobby sectors, down 1.7 percent.
Also decreasing were furniture store sales (0.5 percent) and health and personal care vendors (0.4 percent).