U.S. retail sales last month, which the Commerce Department reports on Wednesday, are expected to show a 0.2 percent gain, according to a survey of analysts.
The estimate, which is based on a survey of Wall Street analysts by FactSet, reflects the anticipated effect of rising gasoline prices and higher taxes.
The retail sales report, which will be released at around 8:30 a.m. EDT on Wednesday, is the government's first look at February consumer spending. A private survey of major retailers released last week suggests that consumers boosted spending last month, but at a slower pace than January’s 0.1 percent increase.
As analysts work to play the blame game, most of the estimated increase likely went to compensate for higher gasoline prices. The national average price for a gallon of gas went from $3.42 on Jan. 31 to $3.78 on Feb. 28.
Despite the rising prices at the pump, any gain would indicate that Americans kept spending in February. Although higher taxes have seen shrinking paychecks, analysts predict that consumers will take time to adjust to smaller pay, which is why they are still dishing out the cash.
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But it won’t be long before growth comes to a halt, as uncertainty about the federal budget, higher Social Security taxes and across-the-board government spending cuts that kicked in March 1 will settle in with consumers, analysts say.