Fitch: Holiday Sales to be Weakest in 20 Years

New York City Sales during the 2008 holiday season could be the weakest in two decades as consumers cut back on spending, and department stores, specialty apparel and electronics retailers are likely to be the hardest hit, according to credit-ratings agency Fitch Ratings Services.

Fitch said it expects consumer spending to continue to decline in the fourth quarter and into 2009.

Fitch estimates personal expenditures are expected to fall 1.6% in 2009 and remain low in 2010.

"Consumers' wealth, incomes and capacity to borrow are being constrained by rising unemployment and job uncertainty, higher cost and reduced availability of household credit and falling real estate and equity prices," according to the Fitch report.

Those negative pressures will outweigh any benefit from falling gas prices and other costs, the report said.

Among the retailers Fitch covers, 36% have negative ratings outlooks, compared to 15% a year earlier.

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