Retail sales hit two-year high

The Commerce Dept. said today that U.S. retail sales, excluding autos, rose more in January than any other month in almost two years, a sign that consumers are supporting the economy as it recovers from recession. Sales not including autos and parts rose 1.2% last month to $223 billion, the government said. Sales at all retailers fell 0.2% in January because of a fall in car and truck sales, which had a record increase in October. Big-ticket items such as furniture, home furnishings and equipment increased 0.4% in January after rising 1% in December. Increased gasoline prices pushed up gasoline service station sales 5.1% last month after a 3.2% drop in December. The average price of gasoline at the pump crept up to $1.15 a gallon in January from a two-year low of $1.10 a gallon in December. Analysts had expected a 0.4% increase in January retail sales excluding autos to $219.3 billion after a 0.1% drop first reported for December. The increase was the largest since a 2% jump in March 2000, the government said.

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