Retail Sales fell by 1.5% in September to $344.7 billion annualized, although better than the expected 2.1% decline, following a 2.2% increase the previous month, revised downward from 2.7%  Over the past year, retail sales volume has reduced by 5.7%.  Sales in automobiles drove the strong increase in August due to the Cash for Clunkers program, but over the course of September have fallen by 10.4% without the aid of the program.  As a result, Retail Sales excluding autos had increased by 0.5% in September following a 1% increase in August.  Over the past year, retail sales excluding autos have declined by 4.9%.

Business Inventories fell by 1.5% in August to $1,311.4 billion, and is down 13.3% from August 2008 levels.  The combined value of distributive trade sales and manufacturers’ shipments for August increased by 1% to $989.6 billion, seasonally adjusted, but is down 15.1% over the past year.  The inventories/sales ratio is 1.33 at the end of August, compared to 1.30 a year ago.

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