U.S. retail sales rose 0.8 percent in February to $148.1 billion for the first increase since October but fell 1.0 percent from the year-ago period, the Commerce Department said.

Not including sales of cars, vans, and trucks, retail sales would have increased 0.2 percent. Sales at gasoline service stations fell 4.9 percent during February.Durable goods were up 2.3 percent in the month, compared with a 6.5 percent drop over the same period last year. Sales of non-durable goods were unchanged were unchanged from January but were 2.2 percent above the 1990 period, the government said.

Automobile sales alone showed a 3.3 percent increase over the previous month, the largest single-category rise reported in the month. That compares favorably with the same period a year ago, when they fell 5.7 percent compared with January 1990.

Building materials, hardware stores, garden supply, and mobile home dealers sales gained 2.6 percent, while furniture, home furnishings and equipment stores sales rose 1.1 percent.

Department stores sales increased gained 2.1 percent in the month.

Food stores reported declining sales, with general food stores dropping 0.8 percent and grocery stores falling 0.7 percent.