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Sales by wholesalers soared 5.8 percent in July from a year earlier to 33.76 trillion yen, up for the second straight month, as scorching weather fueled demand for air conditioners and cool drinks, the government said Monday.

The margin of increase was the largest since March 1991, when sales by wholesalers surged 6.4 percent, the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry said in a preliminary report.

Retail sales rose 0.8 percent to 11.04 trillion yen for the first increase in five months, the report says.

Combined sales by wholesalers and retailers expanded 4.5 percent to 44.80 trillion yen. The margin of increase was the largest since March 1997, when 6.1 percent growth was registered.

In the wholesale sector, strong demand for air conditioners and refrigerators, as well as digital home electronic appliances and soft drinks, helped keep the sector’s growth in the 5 percent level for two months in a row, according to METI.

In the retail sector, sales of automobiles surged 7.2 percent and that of machinery and equipment 7.6 percent, due to releases of new models and robust demand for flat-screen televisions in connection with the Olympic Games, the official said.

METI left its assessment of the retail sales trend unchanged from the previous month, saying, “There is an incipient sign of recovery.”

Sales by large retailers — supermarkets and department stores — edged up 0.1 percent to 1.93 trillion in July for the first rise in five months.

Department store sales shrank 1.3 percent to 853.5 billion yen, down for five months in a row, while supermarket sales rose 1.3 percent to 1.07 trillion yen.

Convenience store sales totaled 675.5 billion yen in July, marking the record percentage increase of 9.9 percent from a year earlier after a 0.5 percent fall in June.

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