A fall in the number of cars driving away from US dealerships during January brought down retail sales figures for the month by 0.3%.

But, despite the biggest drop since August 2004, analysts remain relatively optimistic for the rest of 2005.

Excluding vehicles sales, the numbers show a robust 0.6% rise, twice as good as some forecasts. Sales at clothing and clothing accessory stores jumped 1.8%, while sales at general merchandise stores, including department stores, rose by 0.9%. Increases were also seen in grocery stores, restaurants and bars.

Faring less well were electrical appliances and electronics, which saw a 0.6% sales fall in January. Hardware and furniture sales also dipped.

Parul Jain, deputy chief economist at Nomura Securities International, says US consumer spending will continue to rise in 2005, but at a slower rate of growth than in 2004.

Data sourced from BBC Online; additional content by WARC staff