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Quick Hits: Holiday Retail No Cause for Celebration

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Brief scrutiny of today's headlines.

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Two consulting firms say the 2008 holiday season will generate the weakest sales gains in 17 years.

Deloitte and TNS Retail Forward haven't included the recent Wall Street turmoil in their estimates, but the downdraft is likely depress overall sales and is almost certain to hammer luxury retailers.

TNS Retail Forward predicts retail sales will grow 1.5% in the fourth quarter as the modest growth from tax rebates fades, the Wall Street Journal reports.

Deloitte is slightly more optimistic and predicts sales for the November-January period will increase 2.5% to 3%.

Last year, holiday sales grew 3%, the smallest increase since 2002. The National Retail Federation, a trade group, forecast that sales would increase by 4%. The figures exclude vehicles and gasoline.

Analysts say the recent decline in oil prices will be offset by higher unemployment, higher food prices and the continued slump in the housing market. Declining prices at the pump are expected to be offset by higher winter heating costs.

This year's holiday sales may rival the anemic sales during the early 1990s. If the pattern from those seasons is repeated this year, look for a tough holiday season at major department stores such as Macy's (M) and JC Penney (JCP). Upscale retailers such as Saks (SKS) and Nordstrom (JWN) are likely to be hit even harder.

However, discounters such as Wal-Mart (WMT) and Target (TGT) are likely to benefit as shoppers look for bargains.

But cheer up, stockholders: There's always eggnog.
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