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NEW YORK – After a slow, cold winter, Macy’s Inc. saw its business improve in April as the spring thaw heated up shoppers’ demand for shorts and T-shirts, the department store chain said Wednesday.

But Mother Nature’s aid came too late to boost the department store chain’s first-quarter sales, which missed expectations despite a 3.2 percent increase in profit.

Macy’s stuck by its full-year earnings outlook, indicating it thinks the April sales surge will continue.

Investors pushed shares slightly higher in midday trading as Macy’s raised its dividend by 25 percent and increased its stock buyback program.

Like many retailers, Macy’s, which has corporate offices in Cincinnati and New York, was hurt by winter snowstorms and rain that kept shoppers away from malls. It’s still unknown whether stores can make up for the lost business.

Macy’s and others that cater to middle-class shoppers are facing economic hurdles. While the job market is improving and the housing market is rebounding, the gains are not strong enough to sustain big shopping sprees.

Macy’s said it earned $224 million, or 60 cents per share, in the quarter that ended May 3. That compares with $217 million, or 55 cents per share, a year earlier.

Revenue slipped 1.7 percent to $6.28 billion.

Macy’s raised its dividend to 31.25 cents from 25 cents. It also announced its board reauthorized a $1.5 billion increase in its share buyback program. Shares fell 1 cent, to $57.83.