Retail sales rose for the third month in a row in January, compared with a year earlier, according to a report by MasterCard Advisor's SpendingPulse.
The Wednesday report shows last month's sales are up 3.6 percent compared to January 2009. December 2009 sales were up by 4.8 percent compared to a year ago.
The hikes are largely due to the increase in gas prices, but analysts say they reflect overall a modest pace of spending.
Kamalesh Rao, director of economic research for MasterCard Advisors' SpendingPulse, explained, "Consumers are not going back to their caves, but they are not spending aggressively either."
The figures come ahead of a U.S. Department of Commerce's sales index expected to be released Thursday. Economists predict the government report will show sales will be up just 0.5 percent in January from December.