The Commerce Department reported Friday that retail sales rose 0.6% in September, the third month in a row of sales gains. In August, sales rose 0.7%, the biggest advance since March. Excluding autos, sales rose 0.4% in September after a 1% August gain. Auto sales, which had fallen 0.5% in August, rose 1.6% in September, the best showing since March.The furniture category had a strong showing, as furniture retail sales rose 0.5%, the best showing since July. Electronic and appliance stores posted a 1.5% rise, the best since February. Sales at hardware stores rose 0.6%, the biggest increase since

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