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    Retail Sales Figures for May Higher than Expected

    Tax refunds cited as a positive indicator.

    CHICAGO -- Despite a dismal economic forecast, U.S. retailers surprised industry analysts' when they released better-than-expected May sales figures, reported Reuters.

    While department stores continued to struggle, sales were buoyed by discounters and dollar stores that are gaining new customers who are looking to save where they can in a downturned economy.

    According to a report by Reuters, Wal-Mart Stores Inc. was among retailers that beat forecasted odds by posting a 3.9 percent increase in sales at U.S. stores open at least a year, excluding gasoline sales, compared with the 1.6 percent average analyst estimate.

    Wal-mart told Reuters it believes that the tax rebate checks have had a positive impact although company representatives conceded that seasonal item sales were sluggish.

    "It looks like stimulus checks are having an impact this month," Ken Perkins, president of Retail Metrics, told Reuters. "Just about everybody on board is beating expectations."

    Due to rising food and gasoline prices, consumers are more selective where shop and how frequently they are willing to spend money. As a result, industry analysts told Reuters that many retailers have been cutting inventory, costs and store openings as they look to preserve profits amid weak sales.

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