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The National Retail Federation (NRF) forecasts 2020 retail sales

A shopper browses clothing at a Kohl’s Corp. department store in Peru, Illinois

Daniel Acker| Bloomberg | Getty Images

Retail sales in 2020 are forecast to rise between 3.5% and 4.1%, topping $3.9 trillion, despite the headwinds of a lingering trade war, the coronavirus outbreak and an upcoming presidential election, the industry’s trade group said Tuesday.

“The nation’s record-long economic expansion is continuing, and consumers remain the drivers of that expansion,” National Retail Federation President and CEO Matthew Shay said in a statement.

“With gains in household income and wealth, lower interest rates and strong consumer confidence, we expect another healthy year ahead,” he added. “There are always wild cards we cannot control like coronavirus and a politically charged election year. But when it comes to the fundamentals, our economy is sound and consumers continue to lead the way.”

NRF said its 2020 forecast assumes that coronavirus does not become a global pandemic.

It said business confidence and 2020 retail sales could be hit “if factory shutdowns in China continue, particularly if delivery of holiday season merchandise is affected.”

Meantime, preliminary results show retail sales grew 3.7% in 2019, to $3.79 trillion, falling short of its forecast for growth of at least 3.8%, NRF said. But it said its forecast for last year was based on “incomplete data” because of the government shutdown.

E-commerce sales, which are included in NRF’s overall forecast, are expected to grow between 12% and 15%, to between $870.6 billion and $893.9 billion, in 2020.

The trade group expects the overall economy to gain between 150,000 and 170,000 jobs each month this year, compared with an average of 175,000 last year. It expects the unemployment rate in the U.S. to remain around 3.5%.

This is breaking news. Please check back for updates.

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