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In another of the long-delayed economic reports of note, the government a bit earlier this morning reported that retail sales had ticked down nominally in September, easing by a scant 0.1%. That was a poorer showing than the 0.1% increase that had been the consensus forecast for the latest month.

However, if we back out the auto component to get the so-called core rate of retail spending change, we find that this metric gained 0.4%, which was as expected. This aggregate report likely will be used by the Federal Reserve as it debates monetary policy at the central bank's FOMC meeting, which commences this morning and concludes tomorrow afternoon. No change in policy has been the near-universal expectation, with this listless report on spending only strengthening the case for no action.

Meanwhile, among the components of this report, we find that motor vehicle and parts dealers reported a drop of 2.2% last month, which along with lower activity at clothing and clothing accessories stores and at department stores were the only notable laggards in the month.

On the other hand, strength was indicated at furniture and home furnishing stores, electronics and appliance stores, food and beverage outlets and health and personal care units, and at sporting goods, hobby, book, and music shops. This would suggest a continuing shift away from clothing and towards computers and other electronics products and entertainment, including restaurants.

Taken as a whole, this report was another in a series of mediocre data issuances. We seem to be stuck in little more than a neutral position with regard to the economy, with this and other reports of note pointing to GDP growth of no better than 1.5%-2.0% in the current quarter. Some improvement seems likely in 2013, assuming that there are no further government shutdowns to deal with, which is by no means certain as the next budget showdown is set for early next year.

At the time of this article's writing, the author did not have positions in any of the companies mentioned.