U.S. retail sales edged up in July despite a drop in auto sales. A category of purchases that excludes the most volatile sectors rose by the most in seven months, a sign that stronger consumer spending could boost economic growth.

The Commerce Department says retail sales increased 0.2 percent in July from June. Sales had risen 0.6 percent in June from May. The change in both months was driven by autos, which surged 2.9 percent in June but fell 1 percent in July.

"Core" retail sales, which exclude the volatile auto, gas and building supply categories, rose 0.5 percent in July. These sales had risen 0.1 percent in May and 0.2 percent in June. July's gain was the biggest such advance since a similar 0.5 percent rise in December.

[Associated Press]