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German Retail Sales Bounce Back

For the first time in three months, German retail sales rose in January as tax cuts pursuaded consumers to go shopping again. Sales rose 1.4 percent in the first month of 2004 over December, when they dropped 1.1 percent, according to figures released by Germany's central bank, the Bundesbank, in Frankfurt. According to Klaus Schruefer, asset strategist at SEB AG in Frankfurt, the increase offers a glimmer of hope after negative figures in November and December. Since consumers did not see the effects of the tax cut until February, analysts hope sales figures will continue to rise. The government cut taxes by €15 billion ($18.6 billion) as of January 1 with the aim of boosting domestic consumption, which has been a stubbornly weak area of the Germany economy. Signs of a real consumer recovery have been spotty so far, however. Consumer confidence stayed flat last month even though optimism among retailers rose.