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Demand for cars has been low this year. But part of the reason is that dealers have had trouble stocking popular models because of parts shortages related to Japan’s earthquake in March. Those disruptions are easing, which could boost auto sales in August.

And that would confirm the optimism sparked by the retail-sales report Friday.

“At this point, a mild report is a good report,” said Chris Christopher, an economist at IHS Global Insight.

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D’Innocenzio reported from New York. AP Business Writer Sarah Skidmore in Portland, Ore., contributed to this report.