A couple of stats released by the government this week show the economy largely treading water in recent months. The Commerce Department said retail sales inched up by just 0.1 percent in September. The biggest driver was lower gasoline sales, which dropped by 3.2 percent. On top of that, sales in August - which had originally been thought to rise by 0.2 percent - were revised down to unchanged.
Excluding automobiles, gasoline, building materials and food services, retail sales fell by 0.1 percent in September. These are the so-called core retail sales, which correspond most closely with the consumer spending component of gross domestic product. After the initial August reading showed them growing by 0.4 percent, the figure for that month was also revised downward, dropping by 0.1 percent.
On top of that, U.S. business inventories were flat in August for a second straight month. This follows a rise in inventories increased of more than $100 billion in each of the previous two quarters - a record back-to-back quarterly increase.