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Report: Consumer spending slows in February, still tops January figures

A shopper looks for bread at a Schnucks Supermarket in Richmond Heights, Missouri on February 1. The Commerce Department said on Wednesday that retail and food sales rose slightly from January. Photo by Bill Greenblatt/UPI | <a href="/News_Photos/lp/85a96fb6c4f533a31e54bdd1c51061f3/" target="_blank">License Photo</a>
A shopper looks for bread at a Schnucks Supermarket in Richmond Heights, Missouri on February 1. The Commerce Department said on Wednesday that retail and food sales rose slightly from January. Photo by Bill Greenblatt/UPI | License Photo

March 16 (UPI) -- Consumer spending slowed significantly in February from the month before but stayed on the positive side as inflation appeared to catch up to U.S. shoppers, according to the latest report on retail and food services from the Commerce Department Wednesday.

Advanced retail sales increased a seasonally adjusted 0.3% in February, just under the 0.4% predicted by economists from Dow Jones, and well off the 4.9% from January.

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"Total sales for December 2021 through February 2022 period were up 16% from the same period a year ago," the Commerce Department said in the report. "December 2021 to January 2022 percent change was revised from up 3.8% to up 4.9%."

Retail and food services were up 15.5% from the same time in 2021. Gasoline stations sales, which started to take a dramatic spike toward the end of February amid Russia's invasion of Ukraine, outpaced that total, jumping 36.4% from February 2021, while food services and drinking places jumped 33% from last year.

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Total retail and food services increase over the past year without gasoline stations was 13.6%. Other big sector movers included miscellaneous store retail sales, up 21.2% from the past year, and clothing and accessories sales with an increase of 25.8%.

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"With real disposable incomes having already been falling since mid-2021, as earlier fiscal support was withdrawn, and the more general surge in prices took its toll, real consumption growth still looks likely to slow over the coming months, particularly when the personal savings rate is already below its pre-pandemic level," said Andrew Hunter, senior U.S. economist at Capital Economics, according to CNBC.

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