Banking & Finance

PNC Reports ‘A Merry Season for the Economy’

PITTSBURGH – What’s on Santa Claus’s nice list this year? A good holiday season for consumer spending, according to Gus Faucher, PNC’s chief economist.

Consumers are more confident in their own finances and the economy than they have been in decades. Due to this high confidence, PNC expects holiday spending to jump about 4.5% from 2016. Only about 1% of that will come from higher prices, noted Faucher.

Similar to last year, experts say holiday shoppers will go online for bargains and convenience. Traditional brick-and-mortar retailers likely will face another lackluster season.

“Traditional retailers won’t benefit much from the stronger holiday sales we expect to see this year,” said Faucher. “In part, it’s because consumer spending is moving toward services and away from goods. But more important is the rapid shift to online spending.”

Sales at non-store retailers are rising at a double-digit pace, while department stores are lagging behind.

Employment in retail also is down by more than 100,000 from its peak earlier this year.

“Although retailers will hire more staff for the holidays, jobs at brick-and-mortar stores will steadily decline over the long run,” said Faucher. However, online sales will continue to create new jobs in fields like information technology, transportation and warehousing.

Findings that boost the “merry forecast” for holiday spending this year include:

  • More jobs and higher wages, giving households more money to spend on holiday purchases.
  • Low inflation, giving consumers more buying power.
  • Record-high stock prices and rising home values, boosting household wealth.
  • Household debt, which is at historic lows.
  • Low interest rates, making borrowing cheap.

The U.S. economy is in solid shape at the end of 2017 and will continue to improve well into 2018. “With a good holiday season, consumer spending will remain the foundation for the economic expansion,” added Faucher. PNC expects an increase in short-term interest rates in December, and three more throughout 2018.

Published by The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.