January sales up, but less than expected

Washington, D.C. -- A report released Tuesday by the U.S. Commerce Department said sales at U.S. retailers edged up 0.3% in January, less than the expected 0.5% to 0.6% increase, but still the seventh straight month of gains. A series of snow storms that hit much of the country throughout the month was cited as one of the factors for the weaker showing.

"Seventy percent of the country was covered by snow in January so, if anything, it's a miracle the consumer didn't just hibernate," said Chris Rupkey, chief financial economist at Bank of Tokyo/Mitsubishi UFJ in New York, in a Reuters report.

Sales for December were slightly revised down to growth of 0.5% from a previously reported 0.6%.

Economists polled by Reuters had expected retail sales to increase 0.6% in January. Compared with January last year, sales were up 7.8%.