U.S. retail sales unexpectedly up 1 percent

WASHINGTON Thu Feb 12, 2009 8:51am EST

A pedestrian passes a closed shop on Bond Street, in London February 9, 2009. REUTERS/Andrew Winning

A pedestrian passes a closed shop on Bond Street, in London February 9, 2009.

Credit: Reuters/Andrew Winning

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WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Sales at U.S. retailers unexpectedly rebounded in January, government data showed on Thursday, likely boosted by post-holiday discounts and providing a glimmer of hope for the recession-hit economy.

The Commerce Department said total retail sales rose 1 percent, advancing for the first time in seven months, after slumping by a revised 3 percent in December, previously reported as a 2.7 percent decline.

January's increase in retail sales was the biggest since November 2007.

Excluding motor vehicles and parts, sales were up 0.9 percent after a revised record 3.2 percent decline in December, previously reported as a 3.1 percent drop, the department said. The January rise was the highest reading since May 2008.

Analysts polled by Reuters had forecast January retail sales to fall by 0.8 percent. Excluding motor vehicles, sales had been predicted to drop by 0.5 percent.

Gasoline sales jumped 2.6 percent, their biggest gain in seven months, after sliding 15.6 in December. Sales of building materials fell 3.2 percent after dropping 2.3 percent in December.

(Reporting by Lucia Mutikani; Editing by Neil Stempleman)

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