U.S. retail sales rose a scant 0.1% in June from the previous month's level, well under the consensus expectation of a 0.5% rise, but economists shied from saying consumer buying habits are shifting.

Vehicle sales, chain store sales, and food sales all weakened, but lower prices as well as anemic sales may have been the reason.

Sales are monitored for advance clues to business conditions. Year over year, sales were 6.2% higher in June, the Commerce Department said.

"Sales growth has waxed and waned several times over the course of the expansion, but the underlying trend has remained firm," said Ian Shepherdson, chief economist at HSBC Securities, New York. "More evidence is needed before we can argue this time is different."

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