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(Updated with movement of numerous retail stocks.)



) -- Until the auto industry makes a real recovery, it appears that sales will continue to remain sluggish at best.

U.S. retail sales tanked 1.5% in September, their biggest decrease in nine months. That follows the 2.2% gain seen in August on the heels of the successful Cash for Clunkers program.

Still, this was still a smaller decline than the 2.1% drop economists had expected.

Autos weighed down results, plunging by 10.4%. But, excluding autos, sales actually rose 0.5%, signaling a slight hope in the consumer for the all-important holiday season.

Furniture stores jumped 1.4%, department stores inched up 0.4%, clothing stores grew 0.5% and grocery stores increased 0.9%.

Sales at general merchandise stores, a category that includes retailers like

Wal-Mart Stores

(WMT) - Get Walmart Inc. Report



(TGT) - Get Target Corporation Report

, rose 0.9%. Sales at department stores edged up 0.4%.

Last week, department stores like

TheStreet Recommends


(M) - Get Macy's Inc Report



(KSS) - Get Kohl's Corporation Report


J.C. Penney

(JCP) - Get J. C. Penney Company, Inc. Report



(JWN) - Get Nordstrom, Inc. Report

all reported better-than-expected same-store sales for September.

Shares of retailers are in the green in early trading on the sales data. The S&P Retail Index is gaining 1.5% to 397.30. Notable gainers include Macy's, which is rising 2.3% to $20.20,



, which is up 1.7% to $70.71,

(AMZN) - Get, Inc. Report

, which is increasing 2.5% to $97.15,



, which is rising 3.4% to $14.45 and

Office Depot

(ODP) - Get ODP Corporation Report

, which is climbing 3.4% to $7.67.

-- Reported by Jeanine Poggi in New York

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