The retail sector slowed in May, a trend analysts expect to continue into the summer.

Michael Niemira, an economist at

Bank of Tokyo-Mitsubishi

, said that 68 retailers reported on Thursday an average 4.6% increase in comparable store sales in May, compared with 5.4% in the January to April period.

"Going from 5.4% to 4.6% is a slowdown," said Niemira, who expected same-store sales to increase 5% in May. "What's driving it is unseasonably, essentially cool weather."

The late arrival of spring temperatures hurt apparel sales as well as sales of seasonal goods, such as backyard equipment.

But shoppers continued to buy durable goods, electronics, and appliances, indicating consumers remained confident despite rising interest rates and a jittery stock market.

The

Federal Reserve

has raised short-term interest rates six times in the past year, including a half-point increase on May 16. Higher rates affect everything from credit cards to mortgages, making it more expensive for consumers to borrow money.

Higher interest rates also contributed to the stock market nervousness. In May the

S&P 500

index slipped 2.2%.

Niemira said he expected rising rates and the market uncertainty to contribute to flat monthly retail sales of 4% to 5% as demand for durable goods wanes.

"Economics certainly will be the driver," said Niemira. "Softer demand may keep us in the 4% to 5% range."

Highlighting the June numbers,

Sears, Roebuck

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reported a 3.5% increase in same-store revenues in May as sales of appliances and electronics helped offset low demand for clothing.

"Home appliances and electronics continue to show strong increases along with fine jewelry, fitness equipment and cosmetics and fragrances," Arthur C. Martinez, chairman and chief executive of Sears, said in a statement.

"Intimate apparel and women's shoes reported strong increases for the month, although apparel sales overall were relatively flat," he added.

Gap

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said total sales rose 19% in May but same-store sales fell 2% in May.

TJX Companies

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reported a 9% increase in May total sales while same-store sales increased 3%.

Retailer

Talbots

(TLB)

bucked the trend, as comparable store sales surged 29.4% in May. The company attributed the increase to its spring line, effective inventory management and a successful marketing campaign.

The Limited

(LTD)

said its net sales inched up 0.5%, while same-store sales increased 7%.

Meanwhile, general department store

JCPenney

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reported a moderate 1% increase in department store sales, with same-store sales rising 1.1%.

Wal-Mart

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, the world's largest retailer, said its total sales increased 23.2%.

Kmart

(KM)

reported a 2.7% increase in revenue as sales increased 0.9% on a comparable store basis.

Target

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said its net retail sales rose 6.8% in May while comparable stores sales increased a more moderate 1.5%.