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Sales Move Higher, But So Does Inflation

RETAIL sales rebounded 1.2 percent in April after a sharp, weather-related decline in March, the Commerce Department reported yesterday.

The increase was the best in six months, the Commerce Department said. It followed back-to-back drops of 0.8 percent in March and 0.1 percent in February. Economists caution that even with the bounce-back, sales are scarcely better than the level reached in December.

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Analysts say sales and economic growth in general got ahead of themselves late last year and a slowdown during the first half of this year is in part a payback from the earlier spurt.

Consumer prices jumped 0.4 percent in April, the largest increase in three months, the Labor Department reported. The increase followed gains of 0.1 percent in March, 0.3 percent in February and 0.5 percent in January.

The report came a day after the department announced that wholesale prices had risen a surprisingly steep 0.6 percent in April. Half of the wholesale increase was in the food category, including a weather-related 44.7 percent spike in vegetable prices. Some analysts are troubled by the report, but most analysts believe inflation will remain moderate this year.

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