The economic rebound may be less robust than some people have hoped for, a MasterCard Inc. executive said.

"The worst is behind us," but consumers may not be planning to spend as much as they did before the recession, Tim Murphy, MasterCard's head of core products, said Tuesday during a speech at a financial services conference in New York hosted by Goldman Sachs.

Consumers are becoming thriftier, Murphy said. It is too early to tell, however, "if the changes are permanent," he said.

Retail spending, excluding on automobiles and gasoline, rose 0.2% in November from a year earlier, according to MasterCard data.

"Regardless of economic conditions, the key message" for the payments industry is the increasing use of electronic transactions, Murphy said.

Unlike traditional credit card issuers, the Purchase, N.Y., payments company and its bigger rival Visa Inc. are insulated from credit problems arising from increasing delinquencies, because the companies do not lend to consumers.

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