NEW YORK (CNNMoney.com) -- Retail sales rose in September, the government reported Friday, fueling hopes that momentum will translate into a robust holiday shopping season for retailers.
The Commerce Department said total retail sales rose 0.6% from the previous month to $367.7 billion, compared with August's upwardly revised 0.7% jump. Economists surveyed by Briefing.com had anticipated that September sales would grow 0.4%.
Consumer spending accounts for two-thirds of U.S. economic activity, and related reports such as retail sales are closely watched to gauge the strength of the economy.
Sales excluding autos and auto parts rose by 0.4% from August. Analysts expected sales ex-autos to jump 0.4%.
Strength in auto, electronics and online sales paced the September incline.
Auto and other motor vehicle dealers sales were up 1.6% over August and 19% over a year earlier. Electronics stores reported a 1.5% increase over August, while online stores ticked up by 1%.
"Overall this is a significantly stronger report than expected," Ian Shepherdson, an economist at High Frequency Economics wrote in a research note.
Strong retail sales are another indication that shoppers might be ending their hibernation at just the right time for retailers, who rely heavily on holiday shopping to boost profit.
"It is increasingly clear that we are seeing 'frugal fatigue' give way to 'calculated consumption,' " Marshal Cohen, chief industry analyst at NPD Group said in a statement.
In a separate report released last week, individual retailers reported strong sales results for September.
Thomson Reuters, which tracks same-store sales for a group of 28 national chains, said total sales for the group rose 2.8% in September.