Retail sales rose 0.5 percent in July

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WASHINGTON (AP) — Consumers spent more on autos, furniture and gasoline in July, pushing up retail sales by the largest amount in four months. The gain could signal that Americans are a little more confident and help dispell fears that the country is in danger of toppling into another recession.

The Commerce Department says that retail sales rose 0.5 percent last month, the best showing since a 0.8 percent advance in March. And the government revised sales higher in the previous two months. That suggests the economy was not as weak as previously believed.

The July retail sales report comes after a string of weaker-than-expected economic reports had raised recession worries. Those fears and concerns about Europe’s debt crisis have rattled markets this week.