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The Associated Press April 6, 2011, 12:05AM ET

Retail economists expect slow start to spring

New consumer spending data show that a late Easter, lingering cold weather and rising gas prices are squeezing nonessential spending this spring.

Figures MasterCard Advisors' SpendingPulse is releasing Wednesday show sales growth slowed in some categories last month. But consumers spent more in March on clothing and most other items from electronics to luxury goods than they did in March 2010.

SpendingPulse economist Michael McNamara says online sales grew even faster than usual in March because shoppers were trying to save on gas. SpendingPulse figures include spending in all forms including cash.

Separate data coming Thursday from selected major retailers is expected to show that March brought the first decline in a key revenue measure since August 2009.

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