US retail sales rose in July after two months of declines, largely due to an increase in car sales, figures show.

Total sales climbed 0.4% from the previous month, when sales dropped by a revised 0.3%, the Commerce Department said.

Without the impact of car sales, overall retail sales rose by 0.2%.

US retail sales are seen as a key indicator of the health of the US economy as consumer spending accounts for about 70% of US economic activity.

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Sales in July totalled $362.7bn (£232.4bn), and were 5.9% higher than the same month a year earlier.

Car and car parts sales rose by 1.6% from June, while petrol sales grew by 2.3%.

But sales in a number of other key areas, including clothing, electronics and furniture, all fell.

Recent weeks have seen growing concerns about the strength of the US recovery, and although the latest sales figures showed a rise, the increase was not as big as had been expected.

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