Retail sales climb -- Is that a light at the end of the tunnel?

In the great game of trying to gauge the direction of the economy (it's up! No, it's down!), retail sales are considered a key indicator. And sales numbers released this week indicate a recovery is, indeed, on the way. If only it were that simple.

Retailers across product categories reported higher than expected sales in January, beating Wall Street expectations and in some cases, the retailer's own projections. Wholesale clubs BJ's and Costco had particularly strong showings in January, with sales of stores open at least a year rising 8.4% and 8% respectively.