National

Feb 12, 2010 8:41 AM by Bea Karnes, News First 5

Hope for the economy? Retail sales up

Retail sales posted a better-than-expected increase in January, a welcome development that could mean stronger economic growth in coming months.

The Commerce Department said Friday that retail sales increased by 0.5 percent last month, the best showing since November and higher than the 0.3 percent increase economists had expected. Excluding autos, sales posted a 0.6 percent increase, also better than expected.

Strength in consumer spending is important because it accounts for 70 percent of economic activity. Economists are worried that the spending gains since last summer could falter given the tough times facing many U.S. households.

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