The holiday shopping season kicks into high gear next week, but cash registers are already ringing in the season.
According to the Commerce Department, retail sales rose 0.4 percent last month, in the wake of a flat performance in September.
Gasoline prices, which have fallen steadily since last spring, fell to a two-year low earlier this month. And it appears that whatever consumers save at the pump they spend elsewhere. Excluding service stations, retail spending rose 0.5 percent, as sales of furniture, electronics and appliances all posted solid gains.
But, other data released this week point to an economy that's still in recovery.
The National Association of Realtors reports existing home sales fell 3.2 percent month-over-month in September. Higher mortgage rates and a shortage of homes on the market were blamed for the decline.
And there are fewer homes on the market – or their foundations -- in Illinois these days, after dozens of lethal tornadoes roared across the Midwest.
A series of rare, late-season tornadoes slammed through 12 Midwestern states Sunday, killing eight and flattening neighborhoods across the Corn Belt.
This is home video of one of the twisters touching down northeast of Peoria, Illinois.
And this surveillance video comes from south of Chicago in Diamond, Illinois. Watch the blue house across the street being wiped away in a matter of seconds.
One of the hardest hit areas was the central Illinois community of Washington. The twister carved a 1/8 of a mile swath, damaging or destroying as many as 500 homes. The National Weather Service says fifteen tornadoes touched down in the land of Lincoln on Sunday. Washington twister peaking at 190 miles per hour and was on the ground for 46 miles. Two of the tornadoes were classified as EF-4, the second-highest rating and strongest ever to form in the state in the month of November.
Gary Manier, Mayor - Washington, Illinois: "The unfortunate thing is that this thing hit in November. And November is not the construction season that we build homes in this part of our state and part of our country. So, it's going to be a longer process than if it happened in March."
Many were at church at the time the storm hit and the town’s mayor believes that’s why so many people survived. Only one person from Washington died as a result of the tornado.
Rev. Thomas Heren, Pastor of Our Savior Lutheran Church, Washington, IL: "Our garage where we store a lot of our lawn equipment just lifted off of its foundation and went flying off into the air. We just kind of hovered for a little while, said a few prayers and then once things were kinda clear we all kinda wandered out that back entryway and as you can see in the parking lot behind us, so many members lost their cars and it was just -- everybody was kind of in shock as we assessed the damage."
Illinois received the brunt of the damage, as six people died in the state on Sunday. Two other people died in Michigan.
This map shows the widespread breakout of the tornadoes.
Overall, the storm swept across 12 states from Iowa across the eastern Corn Belt to Pennsylvania, New York and Virginia.
As the storm rolled through Indiana, at least a dozen counties sustained heavy damage to homes and businesses.
Since 95% of Illinois corn has already been harvested, there were few crop losses.