Economists Divided Over Gasoline's Consumer Impact

Gasoline costs in March helped push up overall U.S. consumer prices at the steepest rate in almost a year. Will American consumers tighten their belts? On "Morning Call," two economists debated the matter.

Stephen Stanley, chief economist at RBS Greenwich Capital, warns that in the near term, higher gasoline prices can have a "quick" effect on consumer spending. He told CNBC's Liz Claman that he is "fairly optimistic" that the spending slowdown will pass, but expects a "weak second quarter for the consumer."

Wachovia economist Jason Schenker disagreed: He said the current price environment can't be compared with that of recent years, as demand, not disruption, is driving gasoline prices up.

Schenker pointed out that disposable income is rising faster than it did in 2006 -- and if job growth continues, he argued, consumers will continue to spend.