The U.S. Treasury Department will begin selling its nearly one-third ownership share of Citigroup gradually over the next year.

Treasury received the 7.7 billion shares of stock in exchange for a $25 billion emergency loan that helped Citigroup when it was in distress during the financial crisis.

In a note on the Treasury Web site Monday, officials said the timing of stock sales will depend on "market conditions" in order to get the best return for the taxpayers.

Citi has already repaid a separate $20 billion aid package.

A separate government report says U.S. consumer spending rose a modest three-tenths of a percent in February.

New data from the Commerce Department says it is the fifth month in a row that consumer spending grew.

Economists watch consumer spending closely because consumer demand drives about 70 percent of all U.S. economic activity.

Some analysts says the recovery in consumer spending will be slow until unemployment declines.

On Friday, the government will publish the U.S. unemployment rate, which many experts predict will stay steady at a relatively high 9.7 percent.

Some information for this report was provided by AP, AFP and Reuters.