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Retail sales hitting stride

WASHINGTON — Picking up the pace and starting to sprint ahead moving into the new year, total U.S. retail sales climbed 0.5 percent during February, improving on a 0.3 percent increase recorded the month before, when post-holiday sales kicked into gear.

In a notably strong performance, improving sales were recorded across the board, with almost every major category gaining. Indeed, of 12 key merchandise channels tracked by the U.S. Department of Commerce, 10 pushed ahead in February, ranging from car dealers to restaurants and bars. One (non-store retailing was flat) and only one declined — building materials and garden supplies — slipping 1.3 percent.

Excluding building supplies, home categories were strong performers, with electronics and appliances jumping 1.6 percent, improving on a 2 percent gain in January. Furniture and home furnishings increased 0.7 percent, building on a January gain of 0.9 percent.

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