Morning Business Memo
The National Retail Federation has raised its forecast, expecting holiday sales to increase 3.8 percent from last year. The initial forecast - made in October - called for a 2.8 percent gain.
"After strong sales reports in October and November, along with a successful Black Friday weekend, retailers are cautiously optimistic that this season will turn out better than initially expected, bringing added stability to our recovering economy at a time when America needs it most," NRF President and CEO Matthew Shay said. "However, a number of factors, including the debt crisis in Europe and continued political wrangling in Washington, could impact consumer spending this holiday season and into 2012."
With 10 days to go before Christmas, retailers have shifted their focus and discount strategies to attract last-minute shoppers. Brian Hoyt of the website retailmenot.com says there was "an early influx of shopping for large items: consumer electronics, flat-screen TVs laptops and apparel."
In recent days there's been a shift, says Hoyt. "Shoppers are trying to make purchases in other smaller category items," such as books, music and fashion accessories, he added.
The values of stocks, gold and oil have slipped. Gold is now below $1,600 an ounce, after soaring to more than $1,900 during the summer. Oil prices plunged more than 4 percent Wednesday, and 10-year US treasury notes are below 1.9 percent. All this comes in response to fears about Europe's debt crisis.
More than ever Japanese car brands sold in North America are made here. USA Today reports nearly 7 out of 10 Japanese cars are manufactured at U.S. and Canadian factories. More than 400,000 U.S. jobs result from Japanese automakers and their dealers.
China has imposed new tariffs on U.S vehicles, increasing trade tensions with the Obama administration. The new tariffs on SUVs, midsized and large American cars add more than 20 percent to import prices.