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Retail Forward’s Monthly Shopper Update Survey suggests that “despite bigger tax refunds, consumers are sending mixed signals about their spending plans for April.” The survey notes that the proportion of consumers who plan to spend more this month jumped to its highest level since last November. Yet the proportion saying they will spend less also rose.

"The divergence in optimism is split along income lines,” said Steve Spiwak, an economist with Retail Forward. “Higher income households are benefiting most from the rebounding job market and tax refunds. However, high gas prices and persisting job concerns appear to be holding many low-income households back.”

Consumers told Retail Forward that they plan to use most of their tax refunds - nearly 70% - to add to savings or pare debt loads. The remaining cash will be spent.

Affluent households (annual incomes of $100,000 and over) accounted for all of the increase in the percentage of consumers who plan to spend more. The recent surge in the job market, along with the sustained stock market rebound, is benefiting these households disproportionately.

Low- and middle-income households (under $75,000) were much more likely to have plans to pare their spending compared with a year ago.
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