Consumers have been filling their pockets with the money they're saving while filling up at the gas pump, Moody's economist Mark Zandi said Tuesday.
As a result, expected improvements in sales data specifically and economic growth in general have fallen short of the expectations that came along with the sharp plunge in energy prices.
Consumer spending declined 0.2 percent in January after falling 0.3 percent in December at the same time gas was holding below $2 a gallon in many areas. While that was happening, retailers were enduring a miserable holiday shopping season followed by a 0.8 percent decline in January sales.
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Zandi, though, said he's not terribly discouraged by the numbers.
"My sense is that it takes a little bit of time for savings to kind of build up into checking accounts before they decide, 'Wow, I've got money, I can spend and go out and buy something,'" Zandi said during a breakfast with reporters. "It takes at least a few months for that to occur."