Starwatch consumer

Group makes holiday retail forecast

Updated: 2013-10-03T20:58:59Z

Holiday retail forecast

U.S. retail sales may increase 3.9 percent during the holiday season as political and economic uncertainties hurt consumer confidence, the National Retail Federation said. Sales may rise to $602.1 billion in November and December, the Washington group said. The increase is slightly higher than last year’s 3.5 percent gain. Online sales will rise as much as 15 percent to $82 billion in November and December, the NRF’s projected. That would compare with an increase of 15.5 percent in e-commerce sales in the fourth quarter of last year, the NRF said.

Mortgage rates fall

Mortgage rates for 30-year home loans fell to a three-month low after a government shutdown pushed down yields for the Treasuries that guide consumer debt. The average rate for a 30-year fixed mortgage dropped to 4.22 percent, the lowest since June 20, from 4.32 percent, Freddie Mac said. The average 15-year rate decreased to 3.29 percent from 3.37 percent.

Confidence declines

Consumer confidence decreased for the first time in four weeks as Americans’ views of the economy deteriorated to the lowest level since May. The Bloomberg Consumer Comfort Index fell in the week ending Sept. 29 to minus 29.4 from minus 28.1.

International appeal

Top Apple executive Eddy Cue said he is “very pleased” with the initial rollout of iTunes Radio and hopes to have it running internationally as soon as possible. Apple launched its music streaming service late last month as part of an update to its iOS 7 operating system. Though a late entrant into the Internet radio service, Apple had 11 million users in its first week. In comparison, Pandora, the biggest online radio network, has 72 million listeners, while Spotify has 24 million.

Surge protectors recalled

Schneider Electric is recalling 15 million of its surge protectors because they may overheat or start a fire. The Consumer Product Safety Commission said it has received 700 reports of overheating and melting and 55 reports of property damage from smoke and fire. The devices plug into outlets and are supposed to protect electronics from power surges. The recalled items were made in China and the Philippines before 2003 and are branded as APC SurgeArrest. To learn more, call Schneider Electric at 888-437-4007 or go to for a free replacement.

Better identification

MasterCard is joining the FIDO Alliance, signaling that the payment network is getting interested in using fingerprints and other biometric data to identify people for online payments. The alliance is developing an open industry standard for biometric data such as fingerprints to be used for identification. The goal is to replace passwords and speed logging on and purchasing using mobile devices.

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