"The theme of our forecast this year is 'Party like it's 1999,'" said Diane Swonk, Bank One Corp.'s chief economist, in Chicago.
She and Bank One colleague Peter Glassman forecast spending will rise 6.3 percent in November and December -- the biggest percent increase in holiday sales since 1999 when November and December sales climbed to more than 9 percent.
Deloitte Research economist Carl Steidtmann agrees and said he expects sales to rise at least 6.5 percent.
The economists said their optimism on holiday spending is based on the stock market and the economy improving and that wealthy Americans, who benefited from the federal tax cuts the most, are again booking vacations in high-end resorts and buying high-ticket items like jewelry.
However, the economists said retail sales could cool with bad news concerning the job market. Retail sales will depend largely on consumers' job security, they said.