U.S. retail sales fell unexpectedly in December to close out the weakest year at the cash register since 2002, data showed on Tuesday, the strongest signal yet that the economy may be sliding into recession under the weight of a housing and credit crisis.
At the same time, while prices at the farm and factory gate showed their biggest annual increase in more than 25 years last year, they dipped in December. That suggested the Federal Reserve may have room to cut interest rates more to stave off an economic contraction.
The Commerce Department said retail sales dropped 0.4 percent last month and it revised down November's sales gain to 1 percent from a previously reported 1.2 percent.
The Census Bureau's release can be seen here.