Retail downer.

In October, U.S. retail sales experienced a 0.1% decline, marking the first drop since March and signaling a potential slowdown in the economy. This follows a 0.9% increase in September and robust summer gains. The dip is attributed to reduced consumer spending at stores, gas stations, and auto dealerships. Higher interest rates led to decreased spending on big-ticket items like automobiles, while lower gas prices contributed to a decline in sales at gas stations. Even excluding these categories, sales only advanced by 0.1%, compared to a 0.6% average gain in the previous six months. Department, hardware, and furniture stores saw declines, while restaurant, bar, and online sales experienced slower growth. Target, a major retailer, noted that consumers are scaling back on discretionary purchases due to various economic pressures, including higher interest rates and the resumption of student-loan payments.