U.S. consumers are entering the holiday shopping season with a more optimistic outlook than they had a month ago, largely because of a recent decline in gas prices, according to a widely watched index.
The Reuters/University of Michigan consumer sentiment rose to 64.2 from 59.9 last month, buoying retailers’ hopes for a strong season of holiday sales.
The index’s gauge of current economic conditions rose 1.5 points to 76.6 while the index of economic expectations for the next six months increased 4.4 points to 56.2. Consumer spending accounts for about 70 percent of U.S. economic activity and generates a large portion of U.S. containerized imports.
The monthly Global Port Tracker, produced by the National Retail Federation and Hackett Associates, this week scaled down its forecast for import cargo this fall at major U.S. ports.
Most holiday merchandise has been shipped but retailers are keeping a tight rein on inventory levels. A combination of strong holiday sales and low inventories could lead to restocking during the normally slack winter season.
The NRF last month forecast a 2.8 percent increase in November-December retail sales. That would be above the 10-year average growth of 2.6 percent but below last year’s 5.2 percent increase, which benefited from comparisons with 2009’s recession levels.