Retail sales rise for the fourth straight month as prices keep climbing.

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Retail sales rose 0.9 percent in April, increasing for the fourth consecutive month, as consumer prices continue to escalate at their fastest pace in four decades.

The increase in spending in the United States last month follows a 0.5 percent gain in March, when prices for gasoline soared amid Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Gas prices cooled down slightly in April but were still at elevated levels, while oil prices remain volatile.

Consumers pulled back on spending at gas stations, where sales fell 2.7 percent in April, the Commerce Department reported on Tuesday, and the report showed that shopping at grocery stores and building material stores dropped last month.

Sales at restaurants and bars were up 2 percent in April, while spending at department stores was up 0.2 percent. Spending at car dealers, which has been hampered by supply chain disruptions and a global computer chip shortage, rose 2.2 percent last month.

Economists are laser-focused on upcoming reports on spending because they serve as indicators of how consumers are grappling with inflation and higher interest rates.

“Despite the surge in prices weighing on their purchasing power, the U.S. consumer now appears to be single-handedly keeping the global economy afloat,” Paul Ashworth, an economist at Capital Economics, wrote in a note.

The Commerce Department’s new data, which isn’t adjusted for inflation, captured spending during a month when prices had risen 8.3 percent from the year before. The rapid pace of inflation has led companies to raise prices for their goods to cover the higher costs of commodities, labor and transportation. Companies like PepsiCo and Coca-Cola have introduced higher prices for their products, and airfares are also climbing.

To combat inflation, the Federal Reserve started lifting interest rates from near zero in March. Economists are worried that if interest rates are raised too fast, the move could lead the economy into a recession by slowing down consumer demand too much.

“To the extent that markets are worried about a growth slowdown, this is good news,” Chris Zaccarelli, chief investment officer for Independent Advisor Alliance, wrote in a note, referring to Tuesday’s report. “But it is also a further catalyst for the Fed to raise rates even higher, in order to get inflation under control.”

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