Stoking fears of recession, US retail sales fell in February by .6%, the Wall Street Journal reports, despite economists' predictions of a 0.1% increase. Sales had been up a revised 0.4% in January. Factors cited in the decline include rising gas prices, falling home values, the credit crunch, and a soft job market, with 63,000 jobs disappearing in February.
Meanwhile, US import prices ballooned, with oil prices excluded, suggesting that the rise in food and energy prices is spreading to other goods. Import prices were up .2%, bringing them 13.6% higher than a year ago, nearing a level not seen since the 1980s. Jobless claims remain high, with longer periods of unemployment.