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Economists: Retail sales numbers show economy may be growing more quickly

Wednesday - 3/13/2013, 12:20pm  ET

WASHINGTON (AP) -- One economist says it looks like the impact of higher Social Security taxes and higher gasoline prices "hasn't been too bad."

Paul Dales of Capital Economics is reacting to today's report on retail sales. The Commerce Department says Americans boosted their retail spending by 1.1 percent last month compared with the previous month.

The spending increase came despite the higher Social Security taxes that took effect at the start of the year.

About half the jump reflected higher gasoline prices -- but even when that factor is excluded, retail sales rose by 0.6 percent.

Economists are encouraged by the stronger-than-expected gains. Some say the economy may be growing at a faster rate than expected in the current quarter.

Auto sales rose 1.1 percent after a January increase of 0.4 percent.

Sales at general merchandise stores, which include major department stores and big discount stores, rose 0.5 percent. But the department store category fell 1 percent.

%@AP Links

164-w-35-(David Melendy, AP correspondent, with Britt Beemer, retail expert and chairman, America's Research Group)--Consumers were spending at the fastest pace in five months in February. AP correspondent David Melendy has the details. (13 Mar 2013)

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162-a-11-(Britt Beemer, retail expert and chairman, America's Research Group, in AP interview)-"in the store"-Retail expert Britt Beemer says February retail sales are encouraging, but must be kept in perspective. (13 Mar 2013)

<> 00:11 "in the store"

161-a-09-(Britt Beemer, retail expert and chairman, America's Research Group, in AP interview)-"their overall budget"-Retail expert Britt Beemer says high gas prices accounted for a lot of the retail sales figures. (13 Mar 2013)

<> 00:09 "their overall budget"

APPHOTO NYBZ153: In this Tuesday, Feb. 26, 2013 photo, Marty Grossman shops for a hat at Lodge's store on in Albany, N.Y. Americans spent at the fastest pace in five months in February, boosting retail spending 1.1 percent compared with January. About half the jump reflected higher gas prices, but even excluding gas purchases, retail sales rose 0.6 percent. The report Wednesday, March 13, 2013, from the Commerce Department showed that Americans kept spending last month despite higher Social Security taxes that took effect this year. (AP Photo/Mike Groll) (26 Feb 2013)

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