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Washington (AFP) – U.S. retail sales fell 0.1 percent in September, the Commerce Department reported Tuesday, driven mainly by a fall in auto sales.

The department said retail and food services sales totaled $425.9 billion in September, with the strongest gains coming in grocery store sales, up 1 percent. The monthly reading was dragged down by a 2.1 percent fall in sales of autos and parts.

Overall retail sales were up a modest 3.2 percent from a year ago.

The slower sales echoed a general slip in economic momentum and could have been affected by the budget battle in Congress that shook business and consumer confidence and led to the partial government shutdown on October 1.

Analysts expect the 16-day shutdown, which pulled an estimated $25 billion from the economy, to also impact the data for October.

For the July-September quarter, sales were up 4.5 percent from the year-earlier quarter.

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