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Retail sales in the U.S. increased in line with economist estimates in the month of January, according to a report released by the Commerce Department on Friday.

The Commerce Department said retail sales rose by 0.3 percent in January after edging up by a downwardly revised 0.2 percent in December.

Economists had expected retail sales to climb by 0.3 percent, matching the increase originally reported for the previous month.

Excluding a modest rebound in sales by motor vehicles and parts dealers, retail sales still rose by 0.3 percent in January after climbing by 0.6 percent in December. Ex-auto sales were also expected to increase by 0.3 percent.

Sales by miscellaneous store retailers and building materials, equipment and supplies dealers saw significant growth, while sales by clothing and accessories stores pulled back sharply.

The report said closely watched core retail sales, which exclude autos, gasoline, building materials and food services, were unchanged in January after rising by a downwardly revised 0.2 percent.

Core retail sales were expected to rise by 0.3 percent compared to the 0.5 percent increase originally reported for the previous month.

"After a rare contraction in the fourth quarter, the 3m/3m annualized growth rate of control group sales slipped further to -0.7% in January," said Andrew Hunter, Senior U.S. Economist at Capital Economics,

He added, "That means there are now clear downside risks to our initial forecast that real consumption growth will rebound back above 2% annualized in the first quarter."

However, Hunter said he wouldn't be surprised to see much stronger retail sales figures in February and March and noted strong fundamentals suggest that a sustained downturn in consumption remains unlikely.