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US hurricanes boost US retail sales in September as consumer sentiment hits three-year high

US consumer spending picked up strongly in September, seeing the biggest rise in 30 months, albeit boosted by a surge in car purchases and demand for building materials following the damaging effects of hurricanes Harvey and Irma.

Sales at retail stores and online rose a seasonally adjusted 1.6% month-on-month in September, the largest one-month jump in more than two years, the Commerce Department said. Excluding fuel and autos, retail sales were up a more modest 0.5% last month.

Last month’s increase was the largest since March 2015. Data for August was revised to show sales slipping 0.1% instead of the previously reported 0.2% drop.

Retail sales also jumped 4.4% on an annual basis. Analysts had forecast a 1.7% rise in September.

Sales at electronics and appliance stores fell 1.1% last month and receipts at clothing stores rose 0.4%. Sales at online retailers climbed 0.5% in September.

Sales at gardening and building material stores increased 2.1% last month, the biggest increase since February, and followed a 0.6% rise in August.

Receipts at auto dealerships soared 3.6%, the largest rise since March 2015 and followed a 2.1% decline in August.

Receipts at restaurants and bars jumped 0.8% and sales at sporting goods and hobby stores fell 0.2%.

Meanwhile the University of Michigan on Friday said its preliminary reading on consumer sentiment in October was 101.1, its highest level since 2004, boosted by greater optimism about both current and future economic conditions.

It “reflects an unmistakable sense among consumers that economic prospects are now about as good as could be expected,” said Richard Curtin, the survey’s chief analyst.

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