By  on September 1, 2011

Retailers muddled through August — weathering a spotty back-to-school season, a political storm in Washington, plummeting stock markets and Hurricane Irene — to chalk up a 4.4 percent gain in comparable sales.

The increase fell just shy of Wall Street estimates calling for a 4.6 percent rise and analysts are increasingly seeing a lackluster second half, with the unexpectedly weak recovery wearing on shoppers come Christmas and higher product costs pressuring retail margins.

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