Americans barely increased their spending in February following a weak January performance, strong evidence that the severe winter will hold back the economy in the first quarter. Consumer spending rose 0.3 percent in February following an even weaker 0.2 percent rise in January, the Commerce Department reported Friday. The January performance was cut in half from an initial estimate of 0.4 percent.
For February, spending on autos and other durable goods actually fell, and much of the small gain reflected higher utility payments to pay heating costs. Analysts said consumer spending, which accounts for 70 percent of economic activity, has slowed significantly and will hold back overall economic growth.