Consumer Spending Surprisingly Robust In February

WASHINGTON — Consumer spending grew at a surprisingly strong pace last month, another encouraging sign that the economy may be gaining momentum despite the hit from higher taxes and gas prices and fears of government spending cuts.

Retail sales rose 1.1% in February from the prior month, seasonally adjusted, thanks in large part to robust gains for cars and building materials and at Internet stores, the Commerce Department reported Wednesday. The overall sales rate increase was the biggest in five months and about double what many analysts had forecast.

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