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    Consumer Spending Inches Upwards in February

    Many reports still point to a weak economy but indicate that conditions are improving.

    WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Consumer spending rose for the fifth consecutive month in February, the Commerce Department reported yesterday. The increase matched economists' expectations, according to a report by The Associated Press. It was the fifth consecutive month that consumer spending beat year ago numbers.

    Since job creation and strong consumer spending are considered keys to a sustained recovery, economists are awaiting the Labor Department's employment report at the end of the week that is expected to show employers added jobs this month for only the second time since the recession began in December 2007.

    Despite snowstorms that shut down the East Coast for days, consumer spending in February rose by 0.3 percent, slightly less than the 0.4-percent increase in January.

    The stock market has climbed at a steady pace since early February on expectations that the economy is improving. Many reports still point to a weak economy but indicate that conditions are improving, according to the AP, which noted the Commerce Department also reported personal income was unchanged last month. Economists fear that weakness in personal income could freeze spending.

    On the employment front, according to the AP, economists predict employers added 190,000 jobs in March, though some of those jobs are tied to temporary hiring for the census. The report will come as markets are closed for Good Friday.

    The increase in personal spending is also a sign that the economic recovery may quicken and demand for motor fuel may improve as peak demand season approaches, said some analysts in a Bloomberg News report.

    "The increase in personal spending is a positive sign for the economy, and look at how much the euro is up this morning," Phil Flynn, vice president of research at PFGBest in Chicago told Bloomberg News. "There are just a lot of little stories this morning that are playing into the market."

    Gasoline for April delivery added 3.25 cents, or 1.5 percent, to $2.23 a gallon on the New York Mercantile Exchange, the first gain in four trading days. Futures have risen 9.1 percent this year.

    Regular gasoline at the pump, averaged nationwide, fell 0.3 cent to $2.80 a gallon, according to AAA, the nation's biggest motoring organization.

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