The fate of the global economy is increasingly in the hands of American consumers.
And—judging from the latest data—it's not clear that they're coming to the rescue.
With growth slowing from Beijing to Berlin, the U.S. economy this year has bucked the trend, thanks, in large part, to a strengthening job market that helped households boost spending.
But with the stock market stumbling and Ebola headlines spreading, American consumers took a break in September, sending retail sales 3 percent lower than the month before.
Part of the pullback represented an expected slowdown in car sales last month after red-hot sales in August.
What's more, falling gasoline prices pulled down the retail sales number when measured in dollar terms.
"Even adjusting for those two (car and gas sales), sales were still off," said Joel Naroff at Naroff Economic Advisors. "We didn't even shop online, which is a real surprise."
Food prices have also been trending lower, and forecasters expect that to continue—thanks to a worldwide, bumper crop in grains that have pulled the price of those commodities sharply lower.