Outlook for Holiday: Positive—With Pitfalls

Retail forecasters are predicting a generally good Christmas, although they worry that consumers’ wallets will take a hit because of high gas prices and the fallout from Hurricane Katrina. On the plus side, the job and stock markets remain strong, and retail sales have generally held up this year. On the minus, gas prices continue to rise, Hurricane Katrina has devastated one region and hurt the nation psychologically, interest rates are rising, and consumer confidence has plunged in recent months. Inside the industry, people were generally upbeat about the holiday selling season. “We believe it will be a strong second half [for diamond jewelry sales],” said Varda Shine, who will soon take over as managing director of De Beers’ Diamond Trading Company, at a conference of analysts. “We believe the hurricanes aren’t going to make a significant impact on diamond-jewelry cons

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