WASHINGTON -Retail sales surged by a seasonally adjusted 2.3% in January (versus December) largely because of gift-card redemptions and abnormally mild winter weather, reports the US Commerce Department.
    Following a tepid 0.4% rise in December, January sales rose 8.8% from a year earlier.
    Many economists had anticipated a strong increase in retail sales after the weak showing in December, especially in light of earlier reports of strong auto sales in January, but few expected such robust growth.
    Even excluding a 2.9% increase in car sales and auto parts and a 5.5% rise in gasoline-station sales, January retail sales across the board - department stores to bars - increased 1.8% from December, when such sales rose just 0.3%.