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US Retail Sales Drop

FILE - Consumers navigate high-end retail stores along 5th Avenue, New York City.

U.S. retail sales declined in December, which worried investors and drove down stock prices on Wednesday.

The Commerce Department says retail sales fell nine-tenths of a percent for the month.

Economists watch retail sales closely because consumer demand drives most U.S. economic activity.

Outside volatile areas like energy and autos, sales in the overall economy fell by a more modest four-tenths of a percent.

Analysts say consumers are spending cautiously because wages are growing very slowly.

Economists had been expecting stronger sales because lower gasoline prices are leaving consumers with more money to spend.

A separate report by real estate experts at CoreLogic says the nationwide foreclosure rate fell 9.6 percent in November from the same period a year earlier.

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