Fu­eled by mild win­ter, con­sumers save enough cash to fill up the tank

The Washington Times Daily - - Front Page - BY PA­TRICE HILL

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

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