Money to Burn

Retail Sales Through the Roof

David Goldman/AP

Maybe Valentine’s Day isn’t actually all bad. February boasted the highest American spending rate in five months, with retail sales boosted by 1.1 percent from January, according to a report from the Commerce Department on Wednesday. Social Security tax hikes, combined with higher gas prices (which contributed about half the sales increase), were expected to curb consumer spending—but even excluding fuel purchases, retail sales rose 0.6 percent. Some economists say the increase may mean that the economy is growing faster than expected in the January-March quarter.