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Wholesale Prices Plunge, But So Do Retail Sales

A steep drop in gasoline costs fueled a 0.6 percent decline in wholesale prices from February to March, the Bureau of Labor Statistics says.

Excluding the volatile food and energy sectors, the so-called core rate of inflation was also in check: those prices rose a modest 0.2 percent.

Friday morning's other economic indicator signals that consumers may have been more cautious about spending last month. The Census Bureau says retail sales fell 0.4 percent in March from February.

That's the sharpest decline in nine months. Bloomberg News says the data "may prompt economists, who are projecting consumer spending climbed in the first quarter at the fastest pace in two years, to reduce growth estimates." The drop did, though, follow a stronger month: Sales rose 1 percent in February.

Consumers and their spending habits are closely watched because they purchase about 70 percent of the goods and services that companies produce.

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