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Retailers report stronger June sales

NEW YORK (AP) -- Retailers reported stronger sales in June as the weather warmed up and people took advantage of summer discounts.

Revenue at stores open at least a year — an industry measure of a store's health — rose 3.9 percent in June, according to the International Council of Shopping Centers. It was the biggest increase since January.

While big chains such as Wal-Mart Stores Inc., Target Corp. and Macy's Inc. no longer report monthly revenue, the stores that do report give economists a snapshot of consumer spending habits. In total, the retailers that report monthly data represent about 6 percent of the $2.4 trillion in U.S. retail industry sales.

An improving labor market, falling gas prices, warmer weather and clearance sales helped drive results, said Ken Perkins, president of research firm RetailMetrics, in a client note.

One of the best performers was discount store Stein Mart Inc. The figure climbed 6.5 percent, helped by sales of women's clothing. Analysts expected a 4 percent rise, according a poll by Thomson Reuters.

Shares rose 74 cents, or 5.4 percent, to $14.50 in midday trading, after reaching a 52-week high of $14.56.

Costco Corp. also reported a strong month, with revenue at stores open at least a year up 6 percent, above the 5.4 percent rise analysts expected.

Shares rose $1.40, or 1.2 percent, to $115.05, closer to the high end of the stock's 52-week range of $93.11 to $115.77.

Discount store Fred's Inc. also had a strong month, with the key retail figure rising 4.5 percent on higher sales of food. Shares rose 20 cents to $17.03.

One underperformer was L Brands, which owns stores including Victoria's Secret and Bath and Body Works, The company said that revenue at stores open at least a year was flat in June, falling short of expectations of a 2 percent increase. Still, shares rose $1.14, or 2.3 percent, to $51.75 during midday trading.