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US retailers have reason to be happy

SALES at United States retailers last month fell less than forecast, and a gain in January exceeded the previous estimate, indicating the biggest part of the economy may be starting to stabilize.

The Commerce Department's figures mean the decline in gross domestic product this quarter will probably be less than anticipated. Still, a sustained recovery in purchases is unlikely until later in the year because of mounting unemployment and falling home and stock values, analysts said. Retail purchases shed by 0.1 percent following a 1.8-percent jump in January, the department said yesterday. Excluding cars, sales rose 0.7 percent.


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