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Americans, it seems, are spending again. Since late 2011, measures of consumption show acceleration in virtually all categories, despite the recent rise in gasoline prices. In one sense, this is good news for the economy, as it will push the pace of overall growth and ultimately prompt more hiring, which, in itself, will reinforce spending growth. The stock market has welcomed the flow of news in just this light, rising on each new sign of freer consumer spending. But—and there always is a but—this new trend raises longer-term concerns. More liberal consumer spending can only take the economy so far. Because heightened levels of consumption will limit households’ ability to make needed improvements in their finances, any effort to boost outlays too far too fast would only threaten pinched finances, resulting in spending cutbacks at a later date, say 2014 or 2015, with all the recessionary influence that would impose on the general economy.

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