Fueled by mild winter, consumers save enough cash to fill up the tank
It’s not making headlines, but this year’s unusually mild weather and low home-heating costs substantially offset the pinch from fast-rising gasoline prices and underpinned the revival of consumer spending.
The windfall from declining heating costs, which saved typical families hundreds of dollars this winter, is one reason economists are not too concerned that an expected temporary spike in average gasoline prices to as high as $4.25 a gallon by summer will deliver a fatal blow to consumer optimism or the economic expansion.
“While consumers are definitely paying more at the pump, many consumers are benefiting from the lowest winter heating bills in years” because of the fourth-warmest winter on record in the U.S. and the lowest natural gas prices in at least a decade, said Michael Thompson, managing director at Standard & Poor’s Corp.
The majority of U.S. homes are heated with natural gas, where prices have been plummeting while oil prices were