U.S. 2019 holiday sales to rise as much as 4.2% - NRF

Oct 3 (Reuters) - U.S. holiday sales are expected to rise between 3.8% and 4.2% in 2019, higher than last year, the National Retail Federation said on Thursday, even as the retail group signaled uncertainty fueled by the prolonged U.S.-China trade war.

The NRF estimated sales to grow between $727.9 billion and $730.7 billion, higher than the $707.5 billion, or 2.9% growth, reported last year.

However, the forecast is lower than the group’s initial predictions for a growth of between 4.3% and 4.8% in 2018.

The forecast comes at the start of a tense fourth quarter as latest manufacturing and hiring data pointed to the domestic economy sliding into a recession, an aftermath of the trade spat with China.

The tariffs on Chinese goods have now extended to consumer products such as flat panel television sets, cotton sweaters, bed linen and many types of footwear.

Still, retailers are expected to benefit during the holiday period, which typically generates a majority of their annual sales and profit, as near record low unemployment and steady wage growth spur spending during the season.

U.S. retailers have also released holiday hiring numbers.

Macy’s Inc said on Thursday it would employ 80,000 seasonal workers, unchanged from last year, while Target Corp said last month it planned to hire more than 130,000 store employees, 10,000 more than 2018.

This year’s shopping period, which includes Black Friday, Christmas and New Year, however, is the shortest since 2013.

NRF’s forecast is one of the most closely watched benchmarks and follows estimates from other market research firms such as AlixPartners and Deloitte.

AlixPartners has forecast holiday sales to rise between 4.4% and 5.3%, while Deloitte expects a 4.5% to 5% increase.

NRF’s holiday retail sales forecast excludes automobiles, gasoline stations and restaurants, while considering indicators such as employment, wages and consumer confidence. (Reporting by Akanksha Rana and Aishwarya Venugopal in Bengaluru; Editing by Sriraj Kalluvila)