The government said retail sales rose 0.5% excluding autos in November, a better-than-expected increase that implies some strength heading into the holiday season. Including autos, the increase was 0.4%. The gains were fairly broad-based, with a 2.3% increase in sales of furniture and home furnishings; a 0.9% increase in sales of electronics and appliances; a 0.9% increase in sales at grocery and beverages; and a 1.7% increase in sales at Internet and catalog companies. Sales at car dealerships fell 0.1% in November, reflecting the impact of previous sales, which benefited from zero-percent finance incentives, as well as reductions in those incentives. A separate report by the Bank of Tokyo-Mitsubishi and UBS Warburg showed same-store sales at U.S. retailers rose 2% last week. Among companies, Costco ( COST) said Thursday that it earned $145.7 million, or 31 cents a share, in the quarter ended Nov. 24, up from $129.7 million, or 28 cents per share, in the year-ago period. The latest quarter matched consensus earnings estimates and the shares were recently up 3.2% to $29.40 in the Instinet premarket.