The Retail Sales Index measures goods sold within the retail industry, from huge chains to small local stores, by taking a sampling of a set of retail stores across the country. Released at 8:30 am EST around the 12th of the month, the report reflects data from the previous month. This report will be the "advance" report, which can be revised fairly significantly after the final numbers are crunched. Many analysts choose to look at the figures "ex-auto", which means excluding the volatile car sales figure. It is thought that this number is a better measure of across-the-board purchasing trends. The report does not include money spent on services, so it represents less than half of total consumption during the month. However, even with these limitations, the figures are closely watched as an indicator of the state of the economy. For the latest report, visit the U.S. Census Bureau.