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Retail Sales Jump

Strong economic report bolsters U.S. economic outlook.

Americans are spending more.  

February saw retail spending surge 1.1 percent compared with January, the biggest jump in five months.

The sound of cash registers, like the new economic data, is music to the ears of retailers.

"Obviously the numbers are good for our retailers," says Bill Thorne of the National Retail Federation. "We're very excited about the continuation of how retail is driving this economy forward."

Higher gas prices contributed to the jump, but even excluding the pain at the pump, retail sales still rose .6 percent.

Still, analysts say there is room for improvement.

"We anticipate that they will continue to be positive as long as the head winds continue to diminish and those headwinds consist of economic uncertainty, gas prices and and overall concern about the way the economy is moving," Thorne notes.

Strong online sales are also driving the positive numbers. 

The National Retail Federation predicts they'll increase 12 percent over last year. 

The improved retail sales picture came as something of a surprise, hitting at a time when this year's payroll tax increase has cut into workers' take-home pay.

Analysts attribute the rise in spending to an improved job market.   

Employers have added an average of 205,000 jobs a month since November.
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