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U.S. Retail Sales Unexpectedly Halt Six-Month Slide

Sales at U.S. retailers unexpectedly halted a record six-month slide in January, reflecting higher gasoline prices and more spending on items such as clothing and food.

The 1 percent increase followed a revised 3 percent drop the prior month, the Commerce Department said today in Washington. Purchases excluding automobiles gained 0.9 percent.

Consumer spending, about 70 percent of the economy, is likely to resume shrinking as the year progresses, according to a separate monthly Bloomberg News survey, capping the longest slide on record. Lawmakers are aiming to shore up the economy with a $789 billion stimulus package that’s designed to create 3.5 million new jobs.

“Gasoline prices firmed up over the months and so did sales at gasoline stations,” Ellen Zentner, a senior U.S. economist at Bank of Tokyo-Mitsubishi UFJ Ltd. in New York, said before the report. Overall, “consumer spending is on the skids.”

Stock-index futures pared their decline and Treasuries dropped. Contracts on the Standard & Poor’s 500 Stock Index were down 0.4 percent at 8:40 a.m. in New York after dropping as much as 1.3 percent earlier. Yields on benchmark 10-year notes were at 2.78 percent, compared with 2.75 percent late yesterday.

complete article @ Bloomberg

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