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WASHINGTON — Cold weather across much of the nation contributed to a drop in retail sales in January. Americans spent less on autos and clothes and at restaurants — a decline that suggests that momentum from consumer spending at the end of 2013 has tailed off.
The Commerce Department said Thursday that retail sales fell a seasonally adjusted 0.4 percent last month. That marked the second straight decline after a 0.1 percent drop in December.
Freezing cold and heavy snowfall raked much of the United States, cutting into store traffic and weighing on post-holiday sales. Major store chains have reduced their profit outlooks, including Wal-Mart Stores Inc., the largest retailer.
‘‘Horrible all round,’’ said Ian Shepherdson, chief economist at Pantheon Macroeconomics.