U.S. Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell appeared upbeat about the U.S. economy late last week while suggesting it faces longer-term challenges focused on “low growth, low inflation and low interest rates.” His Friday comments came on the same day that the monthly jobs report for September came in below projections, but the U.S. unemployment rate hit its lowest mark in 50 years at 3.5 percent.
A day earlier, the National Retail Federation, in the wake of news from CoreSight Research that brick-and-mortar retail store closures will hit the 12,000 mark in 2019, forecast a strong holiday sales growth rate of 3.8-4.2 percent. That range, which should be positively impacted by lower gas prices but could be potentially hurt by six fewer shopping days, exceeds the 2.1 percent sales increase generated in 2018.
The trade group says its research shows that 80 percent of U.S. consumers are currently concerned about the possible effect of China tariffs on prices, something which may not be visible at checkout until early 2020 due to a stockpiling of merchandise imports earlier this year by retailers. A higher tariff rate on some China imports is scheduled for implementation on Oct. 15 with another round of duties set for enactment in December. Chinese government officials are slated to visit Washington, D.C. this week for another round of negotiations.