Further financial woes plague every shore as the global economy continues its conspicuous trend of nonconsumption. Oil prices have fallen to heart-stopping $36 per barrel (WTI), down from $40 a week ago and way down from $148 per barrel in early July. The 10-year Treasury note yield was flat at 2.4% and retail sales plunged another 2.7% in December, and are now down 9.8% from a year earlier, according to Standar & Poor analysts David Wyss and Beth Ann Bovino. Much of the drop was caused by lower food and energy prices, but even excluding autos and gas stations, sales were down 1.5% on the month, as consumers stayed away from the malls during the holiday, they say. Even with the better-than-expected improvement in the trade gap, the data suggest an even bigger drop in 4Q GDP, by about 6.5%. Other economic releases were mixed, including the University of Michigan consumer sentiment survey, which rose to 61.9 in early January, while consumer prices fell 0.7% in December, with energy prices dropping another 8.3%. Producer prices fell 1.9% in December, on a 9.3% plunge in energy prices and the trade deficit narrowed by the largest amount in history, to $40.4 billion in November from $56.7 billion in October, primarily because of lower oil prices. Both imports and exports fell by record amounts. Meanwhile, import prices fell another 4.2% in December, with petroleum down 21.4%. Capital inflows from abroad slowed to $56.8 billion in November from $260.6 billion. The Treasury reported a deficit of $83.6 billion in December, bringing the fiscal 2009 1Q shortfall to $485.2 billion, more than the record $455 billion for all of fiscal 2008. Elsewhere, industrial production fell 2.0% in December, cutting capacity utilization to a 25-year low. The New York Fed Empire State survey of manufacturers improved to -22.2 in January, from -27.9 in December. The similar Philadelphia Fed Business Outlook rose to -24.3 from -36.1. On the jobs front, initial claims for unemployment insurance benefits jumped 54,000 in the week of Jan. 10, a bounce back from the holiday-distorted Jan. 3 week. The number of people receiving benefits fell 115,000 to 4.497 million in the week ended Jan. 3, holding the insured unemployment rate at 3.4%. The Fed’s Beige Book compendium of reports from the district Federal Reserve banks showed continued weakening in economic performance with no inflationary pressures. Also, the House unveiled its version of a stimulus package, with $825 billion of spending (3% of GDP) split over fiscal 2009 and 2010. Assistance to the public sector dominated, rather than infrastructure spending as originally expected. The European Central Bank cut its repo rate 50 basis points to 2% while the dollar edged up to $1.33 per euro from $1.35 per euro, and to 90.8 yen from 90.3 yen.