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Retail sales
Retail sales have been showing signs of life in recent months. The government's seasonally adjusted retail sales reading, excluding autos, has risen in five of the last six months. Still, the National Retail Federation is forecasting that sales during the all important holiday shopping season will be down 1% from a year ago.

A better than expected Christmas season would do a lot to lift worries hanging over the economy. But with credit tight, unemployment high and consumers who have jobs saving more, some worry retail sales will disappoint. That could cause additional problems for retailers and companies that make the products they sell.

Since consumer spending accounts for about 70% of the nation's economic activity, healthy retail sales are the key to a strong rebound. "If consumers get unexpectedly scared of buying at Christmas, we could go back into recession," said David Wyss, chief economist at Standard & Poor's.

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Last updated November 16 2009: 12:08 PM ET
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