Retail sales rebound as consumers step up spending

WASHINGTON (AP) — Americans rebounded from a weak holiday season and stepped up spending on retail goods in January. The latest government report on retail sales pointed to a slowly improving economy.

Retail sales rose at a seasonally adjusted 0.4 percent last month, the Commerce Department said Tuesday.

Consumers spent more on electronics, home and garden supplies, sporting goods, at department and general merchandise stores and at restaurants and bars. They also paid higher prices for gas.

Spending on autos fell in January, the report showed, even though automakers had previously reported higher sales last month. That could mean dealers offered more discounts to attract buyers.

The January retail sales figures were an improvement from December, which were downwardly revised to show a flat reading. And excluding autos, building materials and gasoline station sales, core retail spending jumped 0.7 percent.

The “retail sales data are better than they look, but they don’t suggest that consumption growth is about to set the economic recovery alight,” Paul Dales, an economist at Capital Economics, wrote in a note to clients.

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