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In brief: Retail sales show rise in January

U.S. retailers rang up their largest increase in sales in more than a year during January, rebounding strongly after a six-month string of sharp declines, the Commerce Department reported Thursday.

Retail sales rose 1 percent on a seasonally adjusted basis last month, marking the first increase since June and the largest percentage increase since November 2007. The gain was unexpected, with economists surveyed by MarketWatch looking for a decline of 0.4 percent.

However, economists tempered their enthusiasm over the better-than-expected results, believing that the improvement may have been largely the result of problems seasonally adjusting the data after an especially horrid holiday sales season.


Desautel Hege joins PR network

Spokane public relations firm Desautel Hege Communications has joined IPREX, an international network and partnership of independent public relations marketing firms.

IPREX ( represents more than 60 public relations companies with 85 offices globally.

Andrei Mylroie, a partner at Desautel Hege, said the association will provide networking benefits for area clients.

IPREX gives members access to a professional marketing network that can offer clear guidelines and advice on a range of topics, Mylroie said.

In addition to the United States, the association has members in Hong Kong, Beijing, Shanghai, Singapore, Sydney, Tokyo and Taipei.

McLean, Va.

Mortgage rates down slightly

Rates on 30-year-fixed mortgages fell this week, offering homeowners a chance to refinance their loans, Freddie Mac said Thursday.

The average rate on a 30-year fixed mortgage dropped to 5.16 percent this week from 5.25 percent last week. A year ago, the 30-year, fixed-rate mortgage averaged 5.72 percent.

The average rate this week on a 15-year fixed-rate mortgage was 4.81 percent, Freddie Mac said, down from 4.92 percent last week and 5.25 percent a year ago.

From staff and wire reports