Commerce Department figures show that retail sales beat expectations with a 1.6% increase last month, raising the prospect that the economic recovery is strengthening. Inflation remained contained as consumer prices rose 0.1%. "What we're seeing now is the consumer take part in the recovery," said Joseph LaVorgna, chief U.S. economist at Deutsche Bank Securities. "The Fed's not taking the punch bowl away quite yet," as inflation is "very tame."

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