Retail Sales Record Plunge, Stock Market Reacts

WASHINGTON (AP) - Retail sales plunged by the largest amount on record in October as the financial crisis and the slumping economy caused consumers to sharply cut back on their spending.

The Commerce Department says retail sales fell by 2.8 percent last month, surpassing the old mark of a 2.65 percent drop in November 2001 in the wake of the terrorist attacks that year.

The decline in sales was led by a huge drop in auto purchases, but sales of all types of products from furniture to clothing fell as consumers retrenched.

NEW YORK (AP) - Wall Street has ended a turbulent week with another astonishing show of volatility, plunging, recovering and then plunging again as investors absorbed another wave of downbeat economic news. Hedge fund selling in advance of a Saturday deadline contributed to the market's gyrations, which left the Dow Jones industrials down 337 points, or 3.82 percent, at the 8,497 level. The broader Standard & Poor's 500 index fell more than 4 percent.

Some retrenchment was to be expected after Thursday's big advance, in which the Dow rallied more than 550 points after falling near its lows for the year. But there was also plenty of discouraging news for investors to focus on, including comments from Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke that the markets remain under "severe strain" and a sobering report on October retail sales.

(Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)