Associated Press
November 14, 2008

WASHINGTON – Consumers, taking a beating from the worst financial crisis in seven decades, cut back sharply on their spending in October, pushing retail sales down by a record amount.

As President George W. Bush and other world leaders gathered for a weekend summit to search for ways out of the mess, Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke on Friday pledged to cooperate with other central banks to deal with financial markets he said remain under “severe strain.”

  • A d v e r t i s e m e n t

“The continuing volatility of markets and recent indicators of economic performance confirm that challenges remain,” Bernanke said in remarks to a central banking conference in Frankfurt, Germany.

The Commerce Department reported Friday that retail sales fell by 2.8 percent last month, the biggest drop on record, surpassing the old mark of a 2.65 percent plunge in November 2001 that occurred after the terrorist attacks.

The October sales decline was led by a huge fall in auto purchases, but sales of all types of products suffered as consumers, worried about their jobs and the market turbulence, cut back sharply on spending.

The dismal report on retail sales was worse than the 2 percent decline that analysts expected. It marked the fourth straight decrease, the longest stretch of weakness on record.

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