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Oct 15, 2012 2:44 PM by Associated Press

Economists say better retail sales numbers suggest stronger growth

WASHINGTON (AP) - Economists say the gains in retail sales in August and September could bring stronger economic growth for the second half of the year.

The government reported today that retail sales rose 1.1 percent last month, following a revised 1.2 percent increase in August. They're the biggest gains since October of 2010.

A senior economist at TD Economics, James Marple, says he's looking for faster growth in the final quarter of the year -- and the strong retail sales numbers back up that prediction. But he and other economists are warning that if Congress doesn't reach a budget deal -- and there are sharp tax increases and spending cuts as a result -- consumer spending could slow next year.

Some economists also point out that the September jump in retail spending was driven by iPhone sales.

Economist Paul Dales of Capital Economics doesn't see it as "the start of a consumer revival."

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