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Last Updated: Thursday, 18 May 2006, 13:26 GMT 14:26 UK
US shoppers 'cut back for fuel'
US driver filling car with petrol
Regular petrol costs almost 80c more per gallon than a year ago
More than three out of four US consumers are curbing their spending because of the steep rising cost of petrol, a survey has found.

The National Retail Federation said that even wealthier consumers were conceding that the price at the pump was taking its toll.

A gallon of regular petrol currently costs an average of $2.98 in the US. A year ago it was $2.16.

The survey said 76% of respondents were cutting back on spending over fuel.

In its 2005 poll, only 67% were making the sacrifice.

Value for money

Almost half the 7,388 people surveyed in this year's study said they planned to drive less while 37% planned to cut back on holidays and travel.

But less than a quarter said that high fuel prices would delay a major purchase such as a car or television.

Customers were looking for more value for money and conditions favoured discount stores and online retailers, said Tracey Mullin, the federation's president and CEO..

"Higher prices at the pump act as a tax on disposable income. As prices continue to rise, it is inevitable that consumer spending will be affected," she said.

'Tipping point'

Earlier this week Wal-Mart said that higher fuel and utility prices could hit its second quarter results.

Until recently Americans have been used to cheap petrol prices.

But it has been unable to avoid the impact of higher oil prices, driven up by rising tension between the US and Iran over its nuclear programme, concerns over supplies from Nigeria and events in Venezuela and Bolivia.

Editor of Stores magazine, Susan Reda said: "If prices continue to soar to.. a threshold often cited as a potential tipping point, it could very well reduce discretionary spending to a trickle."

This could "cause the economy to lose much of the steam it has built up over the last two years," she added.

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