U.S. retail sales dropped in February and the prior month’s gain was revised to a decline, calling into question the narrative that bigger gains in consumer spending would propel economic growth at the start of 2016. The 0.1 percent decline in purchases followed a revised 0.4 percent January decrease, Commerce Department figures showed Tuesday. Sales excluding gasoline rose 0.2 percent in February, reversing the previous month’s retreat.

The decrease in purchases, which included auto dealers, department stores and furniture outlets, showed Americans were salting away money saved at the gas pump amid volatile financial markets. The disappointing reading on the biggest part of the economy comes as Federal Reserve officials meet to gauge whether growth is strong enough to eventually warrant another increase in interest rates. READ MORE