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Ho-Ho-Hum Last Shopping Weekend As 'Fiscal Cliff' Loomed

On this Christmas Eve there's this not-so-cheery news from The Associated Press:

"Christmas shoppers thronged malls and pounced on discounts but apparently spent less this year, their spirits dampened by concerns about the economy and the aftermath of shootings and storms."

The wire service says that:

"Marshal Cohen, chief research analyst at NPD Inc., a market research firm with a network of analysts at shopping centers nationwide, estimates customer traffic over the weekend was in line with the same time a year ago, but that shoppers seem to be spending less. 'There was this absence of joy for the holiday,' Cohen said. 'There was no Christmas spirit. There have been just too many distractions.' "

Those distractions include the so-called fiscal cliff — a combination of automatic tax hikes, spending cuts and expiring unemployment benefits — that will start to kick in as 2013 dawns unless President Obama and congressional leaders come up with some alternatives very quickly.

And on that point, the AP says, "lawmakers are increasingly skeptical about a possible deal and some predict the best possibility would be a small-scale patch because time is running out before the year-end deadline. Sen. Joe Lieberman predicted Sunday: 'We're going to spend New Year's Eve here, I believe.' "

This morning's related headlines include:

-- "Gloomy Predictions As Washington Approaches The 'Fiscal Cliff.' " (Christian Science Monitor)

-- "Lawmakers Say Time Short To Reach Deal On Fiscal Cliff." (Bloomberg News)

-- "Cliff Would Strike Low Incomes Hard." (The Wall Street Journal)

-- "Business Groups Grow Frustrated Over Impasse In 'Fiscal Cliff' Talks." (The Hill)

-- Europe's Financial Markets "Flat On Fiscal Cliff Fears." (MarketWatch)

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