A sharp rise in car mobile sales pushed up US retail spending by 1.4% in October, government data showed today in a positive sign for an economy heavily dependent on consumer activity.

The Commerce Department said overall retail sales rebounded from a 2.3% slide in September, in data made volatile by the government's 'cash for clunkers' programme that boosted sales in August, resulting in a sharp drop the following month.

Excluding cars and auto parts, retail spending was up 0.2% in the month, the data showed.

The report showed a stronger than an expected 0.9% rise for the overall index, but excluding cars was weaker than the consensus estimate of a 0.4% gain.

Over a 12-month period, sales were down 1.7% compared with October 2008.

Performance varied widely across segments from sharp declines at building supply and furniture stores to large gains at restaurants and nonstore retailers.