By The Associated Press___ Sandy delivers heavy blow to US economy WASHINGTON (AP) â¿¿ Superstorm Sandy packed a bigger economic punch than most people had thought. In its sweep through the Northeast, the storm halted sales at major retailers at the start of the crucial holiday shopping season, closed factories and slowed home sales in one of the most densely populated areas of the country. On Thursday, for example, Kohl's, Target and Macy's blamed the storm for weak sales in November. Macy's and Nordstrom Inc. reported their first monthly sales drop since late 2009, when the U.S. economy was just emerging from the Great Recession. And the government said this week that new-home sales plunged 32 percent in the Northeast last month and nearly 12 percent in the South. By contrast, sales surged nearly 63 percent in the Midwest and nearly 9 percent in the West. Sandy is being blamed for about $62 billion in damage and other losses in the U.S., most of it in New York and New Jersey. It's the second-costliest storm in U.S. history after Hurricane Katrina, which caused $128 billion in damage in inflation-adjusted dollars. ___ US economy grew at 2.7 percent rate in summer WASHINGTON (AP) â¿¿ The U.S. economy grew at a 2.7 percent annual rate from July through September, much faster than first thought. The strength is expected to fade in the final months of the year because of the impact of Superstorm Sandy and uncertainty about looming tax increases and government spending cuts. The Commerce Department said Thursday that growth in the third quarter was significantly better than the 2 percent rate estimated a month ago. And it was more than twice the 1.3 percent rate reported for the April-June quarter. The main reason for the upward revision to the gross domestic product was businesses restocked at a faster pace than previously estimated. That offset weaker consumer spending growth.