NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- Tuesday trading will be bookended by two very important, though distinct, pieces of economic data: February retail sales and the Federal Reserve Open Market Committee meeting interest rate decision and commentary.

Retail sales are expected to show the resilience of the U.S. economy and the U.S. consumer during this recovery and amid rising gas prices, while the FOMC meeting discussion will ultimately be parsed for each and every word from the Fed hinting that even if the economy is improving there is still the need for more support from the central bank. Any commentary reflecting on the Fed view of the strength of the economy in relation to its previous "moderate" growth expectations, inflation worries, and whether the Fed is willing to undertake QE3, will be the significant triggers, not the rate decision.

These twin reports suggest that the top end of the range, which the market has not been able to push through -- the 1370 to 1380 S&P 500 range -- may remain a lid on bullishness through Tuesday's trading. The Dow Jones Industrial Average traded in a 56-point range on Monday, its narrowest range since last April.

Retail sales has more power to swing the markets if, as expected, the Fed offers no surprises -- keeping interest rates at 0.25% and sticking to its "moderate" economic growth story.

The economist consensus for February retail sales is 1.2%, with the range from 0.7% to 2.1%.

The outperformer for February will be auto sales, and it's important to break out the expected bump in autos from the larger retail sales picture. Excluding autos, the consensus expectation is for a retail sales rise of 0.8%. It's also key during periods of rising gasoline prices to break out the pain at the pump, which actually boosts the retail sales number. Excluding autos and gasoline, the expectation is for a retail sales increase of 0.6%.

The exact level of rise in the retail sales numbers is less important than the data showing the U.S. economic recovery as still on track, even with rising gas prices dominating the headlines.

"We should see pretty good strength in retail, excluding autos," said Sherif Mityas, partner in the retail practice at A.T. Kearney. "We should see strong results across the board from the retail sector, and it will show the continued resilience of the consumer, opening their wallets. The momentum is still there," said Mityas.

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