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Retail Sales Surprise: A Glimmer of Hope?

U.S. Retail Sales were up 1% in January, according to the Commerce Department, rising for the first time in seven months. Most economists were expecting a 0.8% drop for the month of January after December's revised 3% decline and the weakest holiday shopping season since 1969.

The unexpected increase in January retail sales is likely due to boosts that came from post-holiday discounts and gift cards, providing a grim economy at least a glimmer of hope.

Overall, however, the bad news outweighs the good as the Labor Department reported that retailers slashed about 45,000 jobs last month and continued to close stores to rein in and preserve profits. In January the retail sector saw its fourteenth consecutive month of job losses and economists warn Americans to brace themselves for more pink slips in the coming months.