WASHINGTON -- The U.S. economy showed more signs of life as consumers stepped up purchases of automobiles, household goods, and clothing in May, the Commerce Department reported yesterday.

Over all, retail sales surged 1% to a seasonally adjusted $152.5 billion after falling a revised 0.4% decrease in April. The increase, along with other recent statistical reports on the economy, prompted private economists to conclude that, for all intents and purposes, the recession that began last July is over.

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