NEW YORK — Canada’s economy got a bigger boost from consumer spending than expected in January in stark contrast to the U.S. where both consumer confidence and spending are heading south.

Retail sales in Canada rose 1.5 percent month over month in January to roughly $35.8 billion, compared to a predicted 1.4 percent increase. It was the third consecutive month of strong gains in retail sales. Clothing and accessories sales recorded an impressive 2.9 per cent jump, second only to the 3.2-per-cent gain by building and outdoor home supplies.

“The exceptional weather fluctuations in December and January, the one percentage point reduction in the goods and services tax and practices regarding the use of gift cards seem to have launched 2008 off to a good start for many retailers,” according to Statistics Canada, which compiles the sales data.

Two Canadian financial institutions predict the Canadian economy will avoid being dragged into a recession by the slumping U.S. economy, but that Canada’s economic growth will slow to 1.3 per cent this year from 2.7 per cent in 2007.