Retail sales figures for September will be the focus this week as investors assess whether the numbers will encourage the Federal Reserve to raise interest rates for a third time since June, analysts said. In Thursday's report from the Commerce Department, sales probably increased 0.3% in September after rising 1.2% during August. Outside of food and energy, retail sales probably increased 0.4% last month after increasing 0.7% the previous month. Consumer spending accounts for two-thirds of the nation's total output of goods and services. Last week, the Fed's policy panel announced that it is leaning toward raising the overnight bank lending rate again to guard against inflation. Industry figures show that retail same-store sales rose 6.7% in September as shoppers scooped up new fall fashions and back-to-school supplies. The auto industry reported its best sales month since 1986 in August, and some of that strength carried into September.
Higher oil and tobacco prices will probably dominate the government's latest inflation statistics, to be released Friday. The producer price index probably rose 0.5% in September, the same as a month earlier, analysts said. Excluding food and energy, the PPI probably rose 0.4% after falling 0.1% a month earlier.