The daily business briefing: February 18, 2021

Retail sales jump exceeds expectations, federal agents seize 10 million fake 3M brand N95 masks, and more

N95 masks
(Image credit: John Moore/Getty Images)

1. Retail sales rise by more than expected in post-holiday rebound

Retail sales jumped by 5.3 percent in January compared to a month earlier as the economy picked up thanks largely to coronavirus stimulus checks. The Commerce Department reported Wednesday that the increase, which was greater than economists had expected, came after three months of decline during the critical holiday season. It was the biggest gain since last June, when many businesses were reopening after the first round of restrictions designed to curb the spread of the coronavirus pandemic. The latest figures added to indications that the economy was starting to bounce back after the winter coronavirus surge. "Consumer spending is firing on all cylinders," said James Knightley, an economist at ING Financial Markets LLC.

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Harold Maass, The Week US

Harold Maass is a contributing editor at The Week. He has been writing for The Week since the 2001 debut of the U.S. print edition and served as editor of TheWeek.com when it launched in 2008. Harold started his career as a newspaper reporter in South Florida and Haiti. He has previously worked for a variety of news outlets, including The Miami Herald, ABC News and Fox News, and for several years wrote a daily roundup of financial news for The Week and Yahoo Finance.