Despite grim predictions that the credit crunch would choke off the economy's biggest engine — consumption — people have indeed been spending again.

After $1.4 trillion of cuts on unused credit card lines in 2008 and 2009, and a 3% drop in overall consumer credit, to $2.4 trillion (auto loans are the biggest piece of the pie), real personal consumption continued to climb out of a deep trough in the first two months of this year, according to the Commerce Department.

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