The bitter cold temperatures reported all over the country did more than keep people in their homes.  It created a hit to the nation's economic recovery.

The Commerce Department is reporting today that retail sales fell 0.4% in January.  The second straight decline.  And the hit came during the most important time of the year for retailers.

Officials say Americans spent less on clothing, food and even pricey automobiles last month.  And retailers are bracing for more of the same with winter expected to last for at least another month.

Commerce Department numbers also show there were fewer signing on the dotted line to buy homes.  In fact, the rate of home buyers is at the lowest level in more than two years.

Analysts believe the cold, coupled with rising food, gas and home heating costs, left people with less discretionary cash.