US holiday retail sales strongest in six years

    Shoppers delivered the strongest holiday sales increase for U.S. retailers in six years, according to early data.

    Citing Mastercard SpendingPulse, which tracks both online and in-store spending with all forms of payment, The Wall Street Journal reports total U.S. retail sales, excluding automobiles, rose 5.1% between Nov. 1 and Dec. 24 from a year earlier. Overall, U.S. consumers spent over $850 billion this holiday season, according to Mastercard.

    The figures suggest a stock-market swoon and partial government shutdown haven’t curbed consumer confidence and spending.

    “Wall Street is running around like a chicken with its head cut off, while Mr. and Mrs. Main Street are happy with their jobs, enjoying their best wage increases in a decade,” says Craig Johnson, president of Customer Growth Partners, a retail research and consulting firm. A recent drop in gas prices has helped last-minute spending, he adds.

    Sales have been generally strong throughout the holiday season, led by increases in online shopping.

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