US Retails Sales Up, Consumers Cautious

WASHINGTON (AP) -- U.S. retail sales rose slightly in January after a sharp drop in December, reflecting caution taken by consumers amid a government shutdown and volatile stock market.

The Commerce Department said Monday that retail sales increased just 0.2 percent, after a sharp fall of 1.6 percent in December, the biggest drop in 9 years.

The economy has stumbled after healthy growth last summer and fall. Weaker economies overseas, the U.S.-China trade fight, and the 35-day government shutdown dented consumer and business confidence. Economists believe growth could fall below a 1 percent annual rate in the first three months of this year.

In January, auto sales plunged by the most in five years, and furniture and electronics stores sales also declined.

(KA)