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The latest

retail sales number shows that sales picked up in January a bit more than economists had been expecting.

Sales rose 0.7% during the month, compared with forecasts for 0.6% growth and December's 0.1% increase. The core number, which excludes volatile auto sales, rose 0.8%, double the 0.4% rise expected by economists and well above December's flat performance.

But while the December and January numbers might seem to indicate a rebound in consumer spending, some are concerned that winter strength is actually due more to sharp discounts and decent weather rather than any fundamental change in shopping behavior. Retail sales dropped 0.1% in October and 0.5% in November.

Consumer confidence has been falling. And big home-improvement retailer

Home Depot

(HD) - Get Home Depot Inc. (The) Report

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and its largest competitor,


(LOW) - Get Lowe's Companies Inc. Report

, for example, recently warned about future earnings. They're not alone.

The less watched

BTM-UBSW Weekly Chain Store Sales Index

for the week ended Feb 10 comes out at 9:00 a.m. The index fell 0.1% in the week ended Feb 3. There isn't a reliable forecast for today's release.