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First holiday sales report a mixed bag

Purchase, N.Y. – MasterCard Advisors' retail sales tracking report found overall growth in holiday sales, but with a caveat.

The SpendingPulse report found a 3.6% rise in sales, but adjusting for the extra sales day this year from Nov. 1 to Dec. 24, sales fell 2% to 4%.

"Overall this year, we have seen increasing stability in spending, as opposed to the freefall of 2008," said Michael McNamara, vp, research and analysis for SpendingPulse. "This is especially significant considering that prices have been holding up this season, without the broad emergency discounting that consumers benefited from during the 2008 holiday season."

Sales rose in six out of 10 sectors during the period, with ecommerce showing the strongest growth. Online sales rose 15.5% from Nov. 1 to Dec. 24 and climbed 18% from Black Friday on.

Many retailers will report December sales next week, and the U.S. Department of Commerce will release its estimates of December sales on Jan. 14.

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