Despite High Gasoline Prices, U.S. Consumer Spending Surges

U.S. consumers opened their wallets wider in February despite high oil prices, though personal incomes rose only modestly, official data showed Friday.

Consumer spending, a main driver of the economy, surged 0.8% in February, following a 0.4% rise in January, the Commerce Department reported in data unadjusted for price changes.

U.S. consumers opened their wallets wider in February despite high oil prices, though personal incomes rose only modestly, official data showed Friday.

Consumer spending, a main driver of the economy, surged 0.8% in February, following a 0.4% rise in January, the Commerce Department reported in data unadjusted for price changes.

Taking into account inflation, February spending rose 0.5%.

Meanwhile, consumers saw just a 0.2% increase in their nominal incomes, but that was better than in January, when income growth stalled.

Consumers dipped into their savings in February as high oil prices pushed gasoline prices uncomfortably skyward, stirring consumer unhappiness that is political fodder for the ongoing presidential election campaign.

The personal-saving rate -- saving as a percentage of disposable income -- plunged to 3.7%, the weakest level since August 2009. The rate was 4.3% in January.

Copyright Agence France-Presse, 2012

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