Less-Than-Expected Growth Could Affect Retail ETFs in 2019

The National Retail Federation (NRF) is projecting retail sales figures to grow from 3.8 to 4.4 percent, which is lower than the 4.6 percent growth experienced in 2018–something investors should take note of with respect to retail-focused exchange-traded funds (ETFs).

ETFs to keep an eye on are the SPDR S&P Retail ETF (NYSEArca: XRT)Amplify Online Retail ETF (NadaqGM: IBUY) and VanEck Vectors Retail ETF (NYSEArca: RTH). XRT is up 8 percent year-to-date, while IBUY is up almost 18 percent and RTH is 7.6 percent higher YTD.

Whether it hurts the ETFs will depend on how the market interprets the data, but the NRF says the forecast comes “despite threats from an ongoing trade war, the volatile stock market and the effects of the government shutdown.”

The 35-day government shutdown prevented the release of December’s retail sales data from the Commerce Department. According to the NRF, sales this year should total more than $3.8 trillion–a figure that does not include sales from automobile dealers, gasoline stations and restaurants.

The NRF numbers showed a continuing trend of growing online sales as consumers shift from brick-and-mortar stores to the internet. Online and non-store sales rose 10.4 percent higher last year and the NRF is predicting more of the same for 2019.

“More people are working, they’re making more money, their taxes are lower and their confidence remains high,” NRF President and Chief Executive Matthew Shay said in a statement.