Glum economic news sent the markets and exchange traded funds (ETFs) lower in trading, especially in the retail sector.

It’s the time of year for back-to-school shopping, but retailers’ numbers seemed to show that many kids might be using last year’s Pee-Chee folders and wearing out-of-style shoes (quelle horreur). Despite fuel prices falling off their highs, many Americans still seem to be quaking in their boots about the economy.

Wal-Mart (WMT) surpassed expectations and posted higher sales in August, thanks to discounts and shoppers buying necessities, reports Anne D’Innocenzio for the Associated Press. Many mall-based stores as well as high-end retailers posted weaker numbers.

The International Council of Shopping Centers-UBS sales tally rose 1.7% in August, below the 2% forecast. Excluding Wal-Mart, results were unchanged from a year ago.

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