Sluggish startFirst, the not-so-good news: the holiday spending season is off to a sluggish start. Total spending from Thursday through Sunday sank 11% from a year earlier to $50.9 billion, according to the National Retail Federation (NRF) trade group. That said, the NRF expects overall holiday sales to rise 4%. If so, it would be the best in three years.
Consumer sentimentThere is solid evidence that consumers are loosening their grips on their pocketbooks.
- Consumer spending in the last quarter grew at a 2.2 percent annualized rate, exceeding estimates for a 1.8 percent improvement
- Meanwhile, consumer sentiment has climbed to the highest level since July 2007, before the recession struck, according to the Thomson Reuters/University of Michigan index.
- The plunge in gasoline prices in recent months is having an immediate, positive impact on family budgets. That's likely to continue well into next year, judging by the oil futures markets.