Lower-than-expected holiday sales set off fears of slowing economy
US President Donald Trump, pictured (left) with Chinese leader Xi Jinping in June 2019, has long championed the US manufacturing sector AFP/File / Brendan Smialowski

Retail sales got off to a slower than expected start ahead of the holiday season, suggesting the U.S. economy is still struggling under a trade war with China.

Overall sales increased just 0.2 percent last month, according to the Department of Commerce, and fell short of the 0.5 percent growth projected by economists, reported Business Insider.

The slight increase signals slower economic growth, although economists say the flatter growth could be the result of Thanksgiving falling later than usual in November, pushing some holiday shopping back by at least a week.

Last year's "early" holiday season posted the strongest sales since 2013, after jumping 2.2 percent over the previous year.

Even if growth remains sluggish, the U.S. economy was expected to jump somewhat early next year as "phase one" of a U.S.-China trade deal relieves some economic pressure.

President Donald Trump announced Friday that the U.S. had agreed to pull back tariffs as part of an interim deal, and he agreed to cancel plans to levy 15-percent tariffs on some Chinese goods that had been scheduled to go into effect Sunday.