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US retail sales rose 0.5 percent in December

WASHINGTON (AP) â¿¿ U.S. consumers increased their spending at retail businesses in December, buying more autos, furniture and clothing. Steady job growth and lower gas prices kept consumers shopping for the holidays, despite worries about potentially tax increases.

Retail sales rose 0.5 percent in December from November, the Commerce Department said Tuesday. That's slightly better than November's 0.4 percent increase and the best showing since September.

Sales of autos and auto parts rose 1.6 percent to lead all categories. Car companies closed out their best sales year since 2007.

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Falling food, gas costs lower US wholesale prices

WASHINGTON (AP) â¿¿ U.S. wholesale prices fell for the third month in a row last month, pushed down by falling food and gas costs. The drop is the latest evidence inflation is tame.

The producer price index dropped 0.2 percent in December, the Labor Department said Tuesday. That follows a decline of 0.8 percent in November.

The index measures price changes before they reach the consumer. Wholesale prices rose 1.3 percent in 2012, much lower than the 4.7 percent increase in 2011.

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US businesses increased stockpiles 0.3 percent

WASHINGTON (AP) â¿¿ U.S. companies increased their stockpiles at a steady pace in November from October, responding to a solid increase in sales.

The Commerce Department said Tuesday that business inventories grew 0.3 percent in November, matching the October gain.

Sales rose 1 percent in November, the best showing since a 1.2 percent rise in September. In October, sales fell 0.3 percent, reflecting in part disruptions caused by Superstorm Sandy.

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Banks say new agency's oversight is slow, costly

WASHINGTON (AP) â¿¿ Bankers and financial industry leaders are criticizing the early efforts of the government's new consumer finance watchdog, saying a slow and inefficient oversight process has slowed lending and made it more difficult for them to do business.

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