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Post-holiday spending points to recovery

Americans didn't stop splurging after the holidays.

They braved snowstorms and shopped in force in January, handing retailers like Costco, Victoria's Secret and Macy's surprisingly strong sales.

The sales figures offered more evidence Thursday that the economic recovery is picking up speed.

"It's one more piece of the economic puzzle that's falling in place," said Michael P. Niemira, chief economist at the International Council of Shopping Centers.

Consumer spending has been improving for more than a year now, and this holiday season was the strongest for stores since 2006, before the Great Recession, according to the council. Sales figures for January showed that shoppers weren't spent out after Christmas.

The council's index of 32 stores showed a robust 4.8 percent increase for the month, well above the expected 1.5 to 2 percent. Analysts were worried that snowstorm after snowstorm, particularly in the Northeast, might have kept shoppers at home. The figures cover Jan. 2 through last Saturday for stores that have been open at least a year.

Costco reported a 9 percent gain in revenue, and Limited Brands claimed a stellar 24 percent increase. Among department stores, Macy's posted a better-than-expected 2.6 percent gain. - AP

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