Forecasters Predict Strong Holiday as Consumer Confidence Jumps

Two more forecasts predict a solid holiday ahead, and two widely watched measures of consumer confidence found Americans feeling better about the economy.

The International Council of Shopping Centers predicts a 3 percent sales increase for the November-December holiday period.

It said that its forecast carries “a little more uncertainty than usual,” however, because of a soft economy, high gas prices, and the looming $500 million in spending cuts due to the Congressional budget deal.

Anthony L. Liuzzo, a business and economics professor at Wilkes University in Wilkes-Barre, Pa., also predicts a 3 percent jump in holiday retail spending this year.

His prediction takes into account an expected post-election surge in the consumer mood, and a longer shopping season than usual, with Christmas falling on Tuesday, allowing for another weekend of shopping.

The 3 percent figure is close to a prediction from ShopperTrak, which foresees a 3.3 percent increase in holiday sales.

Meanwhile, two widely watched measures of consumer confidence showed improved results in September.

The Conference Board’s Consumer Confidence index jumped nine points to hit 70.3 this month, which represents the index’s highest level since February.

The survey found more optimism among consumers about current conditions such as the job market and their financial situations.

Another survey of consumers from Thomson Reuters/University of Michigan revealed that shopper sentiment hit 78.3 in September, up from 74.3 in August. That is its highest level since May.

“The September improvement in confidence was due to more favorable prospects for the economy and for jobs during the year ahead,” said the survey’s chief economist, Richard Curtin, in a statement. “In addition, consumers reported some small gains in their financial situation. The improvement was due to a reduction in their debt levels and an increase in the value of their assets, primarily because of rising stock prices and home values. Nonetheless, consumers anticipate a rocky economic road ahead.”