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The Commerce Dept. just released its February retail figures and they were softer than expected, indicating an economic slowdown is at hand. In the words of ClearView Economics President Ken Mayland, "It appears consumer spending is something short of healthy." By the numbers, U.S. retail spending rose just 0.1% after being flat in January. Driving sales was a strong 0.9% rise in auto sales and a 1.2% hike in gas sales, propelled by higher prices. Wall Street was expecting between 0.2%-0.3% gains, according to MarketWatch and Bloomberg estimates. Retail sales actually declined 0.3% ex-gas and autos, the largest such decline since April 2004.

• Sources: MarketWatch, Bloomberg
• Commentary: Retail Same-Store Sales RoundupRetailers Post January Same Store Sales
• Stocks and ETFs to watch: Retail HOLDRS ETF (NYSEARCA:RTH), SPDR S&P Retail (NYSEARCA:XRT), PowerShares Dynamic Retail (NYSEARCA:PMR)

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Source: Feb. Retail Sales Ex-Autos, Energy Worst Since 2004