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WASHINGTON — Hopes are rising that consumers will drive stronger growth in 2014 after they stepped up spending at the end of last year in the United States and Europe.
The outlook for spending is brightening even though growth is weakening in some large emerging economies and slowing the sales of consumer product giants such as Unilever and Procter & Gamble.
Several trends are boosting consumer spending in developed countries: Inflation is low, enabling shoppers to stretch their dollars, euros and yen. The Federal Reserve, the Bank of England, and other central banks are keeping interest rates super low. Those low rates have made it easier for borrowers to afford higher-cost items such as cars and appliances.