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US consumer spending rose 0.5% in January

Shoppers in Virginia
Shoppers spent more than expected in January

US consumer spending rose more than expected in January, providing further evidence of a steady recovery for the world's biggest economy.

Spending during the month increased by 0.5%, following upwardly revised growth of 0.3% in December, the Commerce Department said.

The measure has now risen for four consecutive months.

Consumer spending is watched closely because it accounts for more than two-thirds of overall US economic activity.

Last week, revised figures showed that the US economy grew by 5.9% in the last three months of 2009 - higher than the first estimate of 5.7%.

While the US economy is growing strongly, high unemployment and fears of a renewed downturn are curbing spending.

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