U.S. retail sales inched 0.1 percent higher in October to $152.32 billion, the Commerce Department reports, an indication consumers are holding back because of recession fears.

Not counting cars, trucks and vans, retail sales were unchanged in October. Not counting gasoline, which costs more because of the Middle East crisis, sales dipped 0.1 percent last month, a government spokesman said.October's overall 0.1 percent gain was generally in line with forecasts by private economists.

In September, retail sales climbed 1.3 percent nationwide following an advance of 1.6 percent in August, according to the data compiled by the department's Census Bureau.

A market letter by Fuji Securities of Chicago said consumer confidence is at "recessionary levels."

But although the domestic economy appears to be in or near a recession, with both the consumer and manufacturing sectors showing weakness, retail sales were up 4.9 percent over October 1989.

During October, sales of durable goods climbed 0.7 percent while sales of non-durable goods dropped 0.2 percent.

Sales were up 3.2 percent at gasoline service stations during October, reflecting the higher petroleum prices, and jumped 23.7 percent over October 1989, the Commerce Department said.

Last month's sales also advanced 1.6 percent at drug stores, climbed 1.5 percent at hardware and building supply stores, and rose 0.7 percent at automotive dealerships, the department said.

However, sales were off 1 percent at clothing stores and down 0.6 percent at department stores, off 0.5 percent at food stores, and down 0.3 percent at both restaurants and furniture stores.

The data are adjusted for seasonal