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National retail group offers weak holiday forecast

The usually bullish National Retail Federation isn

Costco shopper Francisca Merino loads her family groceries onto the check-out counter at a Seattle store Thursday, May 29, 2008. Consumers stepped up their shopping in May after tax rebate checks hit mailboxes, giving many of the nation's retailers stronger than expected sales for the month. Still, there were signs that many people are still focusing on necessities such as food and gas. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson)

NEW YORK (AP) - The usually bullish National Retail Federation isn't painting a rosy picture about holiday sales.

The NRF predicts a 1 percent decline in total sales for November and December combined. The NRF is less optimistic this year than several other groups offering holiday sales forecasts.

Consumers had already cut back during the fall back-to-school season.

So far, holiday 2009 forecasts range from as weak as a 3.5 percent decline from Wells Fargo senior economist Mark Vitner to predictions at the top end from Deloitte Research and TNS Retail Forward that sales will be the same as last year.

Job security is a key factor and the latest government jobs report, issued Friday, fueled more concerns. The figures showed unemployment ticking up to 9.8 percent in September, a 26-year-high.

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