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The ‘Fiscal Cliff’—the Grinch That Steals Christmas?

Numerous economic crosscurrents are making it very difficult to forecast holiday sales this year, said Jack Kleinhenz, chief economist at the National Retail Federation.

Holiday gift and ornaments
Garry Gay | Getty Images
Holiday gift and ornaments

Earlier Tuesday, the trade group issued its holiday sales forecast for 2012. The estimate, which called for sales to rise 4.1 percent in the November-December time frame, was higher than the 10-year average, but lower than actual holiday sales growth of 5.6 percent last year. (Read More: Retail Trade Group Sees Holiday Sales Up 4.1%)

The vast majority of Americans, some 70 percent, say the current state of the economy is impacting their overall spending plans for the holidays, according to polling conducted by researcher BIGinsight. These people say they will be watching both their budgets and the upcoming presidential election.

Six in 10 Americans said the current “fiscal cliff” is likely to impact their vote for the presidential election.

During a conference call to discuss the NRF forecast, Kleinhenz said consumers have been the real driver of the economic recovery and have actually been outpacing the economy's growth. That said, there still remains a lot of anxiety, he said.

“They are cautious, they are concerned, and certainly they are skittish, like some retailers,” Kleinhenz said.

He stressed the forecast was “good news.”

“This isn’t a subpar holiday sale forecast,” he said.

However, he said the group would revisit the forecast if there are any big changes in the labor market or dips in consumer confidence.

-By Christina Cheddar Berk, CNBC.com News Editor

Questions? Comments? Email us at consumernation@cnbc.com. Follow Christina Cheddar Berk on Twitter @ccheddarberk.

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