Early data shows strongest US holiday retail sales in years

Holiday shopping sales this year were the strongest they have been in years, The Wall Street Journal reported Tuesday, citing early data from Mastercard SpendingPulse.

Consumers in the U.S. spent more than $850 billion this season between online and in-store purchases, the Journal reported.

Excluding sales of automobiles, sales in the U.S. between Nov. 1 and Dec. 21 were up 5.1 percent from last year, according to the report.

That included a 19.1 percent increase in sales from online shopping and a 47 percent jump in sales in which consumers completed the purchase online and then picked up the item in-store.

The retail numbers come as the U.S. faces a tumbling stock market. The Dow Jones Industrial Average dropped 653 points on Monday, marking the worst Christmas Eve performance of stocks on record. The S&P 500 is down more than 20 percent from its peak in August.

Steve Barr, the consumer markets head at the consulting firm PwC, told the Journal that there is "heightened risk" regarding what 2019 could bring for retailers, given the performance of stocks.

“While we haven’t seen the consumer retreat, I do think there is a heightened risk with volatility in the capital markets and rising interest rates and uncertainty in Washington, D.C.,” Barr said. “Retailers are a bit on edge about what 2019 might be.”

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