Merchants may have some reason to celebrate.
New numbers indicate that holiday shoppers spent a little more this season. It would mean that retailers managed to avoid a repeat of last year's disaster, even though credit is tight and unemployment is in double-digits.
According to MasterCard Advisors' SpendingPulse, which tracks all forms of payment -- including cash -- retail sales rose by 3.6 percent from the beginning of November through Christmas Eve.
When adjusted for an extra shopping day between Thanksgiving and Christmas, the number was closer to a 1 percent gain.
The higher spending should bring healthier profits, since stores had a year in which to plan their inventories to match consumer demand, and didn't have to resort to drastic price-cutting.
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