August retail sales grind to a halt

Flat August retail numbers a bad sign for consumer spending and confidence

Pat Wellenbach/AP/File
A shopper leaves the Gap store in Freeport, Maine. Retail sails ground to a halt in August, yet another worrying sign for the faltering economy.

From the WSJ:

U.S. retail sales were flat in August, a potentially worrying sign that Americans are increasingly wary as unemployment remains high and the recovery weak.

Separately, U.S. wholesale prices were flat last month, pointing to moderating inflation pressures and giving the Federal Reserve more leeway to try and boost the economy.

Retail and food services sales were virtually unchanged from the previous month at an adjusted $389.50 billion, the Commerce Department said Wednesday.

Economists surveyed by Dow Jones Newswires had forecast a 0.3% increase. July retail sales were revised down to a 0.3% gain. The Commerce Department originally estimated 0.5%.

Economic reports and data releases are like squares on a quilt. No one or two squares are ever terribly important in and of themselves...rather, it is when one takes a step back and looks at all of them assembled and stitched together that one gets the true picture of what is happening.

This square, and you can blame the hurricane or a quirk of the calendar or whatever you want, is decidedly bad. It is a reminder of which direction consumer spending and confidence is going.

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