September offered evidence that an increase in consumer spending could be taking hold in the U.S. Excluding vehicles and auto parts, consumer spending rose 0.5% compared with August. "It's mildly encouraging," said Paul Dales, U.S. economist at Capital Economics. Furniture stores posted the biggest sales gain, at 1.4%, followed by gasoline stations, with 1.1%, and general-merchandise stores, including discount chains, at 0.9%.

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