WASHINGTON (AP) _ A rebound in auto sales following the General Motors strikes helped produce a modest 0.3 percent increase in retail sales in September, but spending fell at furniture and clothing stores.

Overall, sales rose to a seasonally adjusted $224.9 billion after remaining nearly unchanged in August, the Commerce Department said today.

Auto sales shot up 0.9 percent in September, the best gain in four months, following decreases of 0.1 percent in August and 4.3 percent in July.

However, excluding autos, sales crept just 0.1 percent higher in September, the same as the increase the month before.

The report suggests consumers may be have turned a bit cautious following the sharp late-August drop in the stock market. Also, analysts said, Hurricane Georges temporarily battered sales in parts of the South and unseasonable warmth curbed spending on fall merchandise.