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      Slight gain forecast for retail sales

      WASHINGTON (AP) -- A FactSet survey of economists suggests there was cautious consumer spending in February as Americans balanced a surge in hiring against higher taxes and gas prices.

      Economists forecast that Commerce Department data due out Wednesday will show retail sales rose 0.2 percent in February, only slightly better than January's 0.1 percent increase.

      The retail sales report is the government's first look at consumer spending, which drives about 70 percent of economic activity.

      Some of the anticipated increase likely went to cover higher gas prices. The national average price for a gallon of gas went from $3.42 on Jan. 31 to $3.78 on Feb. 28.

      Still, any gain would indicate that Americans kept spending in February despite an increase in Social Security taxes that has lowered take-home pay.

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