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Holiday Sales Have Strong Start, Will The Trend Continue?

The news that the holiday shopping season got a strong start on its unofficial launch day — Black Friday — has helped push stock index futures up sharply this morning.

After all, if American consumers are indeed feeling good this holiday season, that would be very welcome news for an economy still struggling to produce jobs. Stronger demand, in theory, should eventually put pressure on businesses to add to their workforces.

But — and there's always a but when it comes to stories about the economy — it's probably best to hold off on drawing too many conclusions from the first big shopping weekend.

"One swallow does not a holiday season make. After the deepest recession in decades, the solid Black Friday weekend is welcome news, but we're only in the second quarter of a long playoff game," Craig Johnson, president of consulting firm Customer Growth Partners, tells Reuters.

It's also possible, analysts say, that many shoppers did most if not all of their holiday shopping already — they may have effectively "borrowed" from future spending.

The National Retail Federation says "a record 226 million shoppers visited stores and websites over Black Friday weekend, up from 212 million last year. ... The average holiday shopper spent $398.62 this weekend, up [9.1 percent] from $365.34 last year. Total spending reached an estimated $52.4 billion."

The federation adds that "additionally, shoppers also checked out retailers' deals online, spending an average of $150.53 on the web — 37.8 percent of their total weekend spending."

Speaking of online shopping, today is the so-called Cyber Monday — when retailers try to get us to open our virtual wallets to score some online deals. Detroit Free Press columnist Mark W. Smith this morning takes a look at the "myth of Cyber Monday."

Copyright 2011 National Public Radio. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

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