Retail Sales Post Surprising Rebound In January Following Dismal December

WASHINGTON D.C. (AP) — Shoppers put aside worries about the slumping economy to go to the malls and auto dealerships in January. That propelled retail sales to a surprising rebound following a dismal December.

The Commerce Department reported Wednesday that retail sales rose by three-tenths of a percentage point last month. Sales had fallen by four-tenths of a percentage point in December as retailers suffered through their worst Christmas shopping season in five years.

The increase was led by strong demand for new cars and a big jump in sales at gasoline service stations, which reflected higher pump prices.

The January performance came as a surprise to analysts who had been forecasting a three-tenths of a percentage point decline for the month. However, the January rebound may not last, given all the problems facing consumers, from the steep slump in housing to job losses and a severe credit squeeze.