Columbus, Ohio, Retail Forward's Future Spending Index reported consumer spending should rise in March from last month. The overall index improved to 101.6, the highest level since September. Spending should be weaker than a year ago, however, because the latest index is a shade lower than in March 2005. "Underpinning the projected increase in sales this month are the lagging effects of the housing market boom and signs that debt loads have become less of a drag on ability to spend," Retail Forward economist Steve Spiwak said. "The uneven job market recovery from last year's post-hurricane disruption will continue to discourage spending among some shoppers as spring approaches, however."