Auto sales weaken early in July, but are still seen topping figures from July 2011

DETROIT – The raft of bad economic news may be starting to hurt U.S. auto sales.

Industry analysts and dealers are saying sales during the first half of July slowed a bit from the robust pace in June. But they’re still expected to exceed sales for July of 2011.

“It’s a bit slower than where we want it to be,” said Inder Dosanjh, owner of several General Motors dealerships in the San Francisco-Bay area.

Dealers such as Dosanjh may be wondering if car buyers, who’ve largely ignored sobering economic headlines, are getting discouraged. A widely followed reading on consumer confidence has fallen for four straight months as hiring remained weak.

For the first half of the year, sales ran at an annual rate of 14.3 million, the best pace in 5 years.