NEW YORK (AP) -- Stocks are falling sharply in early trading after economic readings raised the possibility that the country is either in a recession or moving toward one.
The government's report Wednesday that retail sales plunged in September by 1.2 percent is fanning concerns about consumers.
The decline was steeper than expected and is worrisome because consumer spending accounts for about two-thirds of U.S. economic activity.
The Dow Jones industrial average is down about 147 at the 9,163 level.
Now that the government is moving ahead with plans to buy stock in banks to help revive the lending business, investors are refocusing their attention on the economy.
And Wednesday's retail sales report was a reminder of how much trouble the country is in as a result of the credit crisis.