Consumers grew more cautious last month amid wild stock market swings, zero job growth and heightened concerns that the economy has weakened.
Retail sales were flat in August. At the same time, wholesale inflation leveled off. The latest data could give the Federal Reserve more impetus to adopt additional stimulus next week.
“The combination of those two reports sets the stage for, and warrants, additional action by the Fed,” said Michelle Meyer, an economist at Bank of America Merrill Lynch.
Wall Street looked past the weak retail sales data. Growing optimism that European leaders would be able to contain their debt crisis drove stocks higher. The Dow Jones industrial average rose more 200 points in late-afternoon trading but slid near the end of trading to close up 140 points at 11,246.
In August, consumers spent less on autos, clothing and furniture, the Commerce Department said Wednesday.