The all important retail sales report, the final economic data point before next week's taper announcement, has just come and it was a disappointment, printing at just 0.2% for the month of August, down from an upward revised 0.4% in July, and below the 0.5% expected. Excluding the government loan-funded autos and volatile gas sales, retail sales barely rose, increasing at the lowest possible pace, or 0.1%, and below the expected 0.3% rate, and well below the revised 0.6% from July. General merchandise stores went so far to post a -0.2% dip. However, the most notable number is likely the -0.9% drop in building and garden material sales, which is a screeching halt to the recent upward bias in home renovation, and further evidence that the recent cheap-credit fueled housing bubble has finally popped. As for clothing retailers: with a -0.8% drop in August, don't expect a rebound any time soon. So much for retail strength. But hey: at least consumers have stocks they can buy... at all time highs.