Early tax refunds may have boosted consumer spending early in the year. Something else likely to have given spending a lift, say economists at Goldman, Sachs & Co., was a sudden increase in federal benefit outlays. For the three months ended February, Veterans Benefits Administration and Veterans Health Administration spending surged 11.5% over outlays a year earlier. This outsize gain should be viewed as temporary, and consumers may revert to more "cautious" spending behavior, predict Goldman Sachs economists.
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