Economy Watch: Consumers Buying Online With Gusto This Holiday Season

From Oct. 31 to Dec. 22 this year, consumers spent $36.4 billion on-line, according to MasterCard Advisors SpendingPulse

MasterCard Advisors’ SpendingPulse, which tracks U.S. retail sales, said last week that consumers ramped up their online spending toward the end of 2010, compared with a year ago. From Oct. 31 to Dec. 22 this year, consumers spent $36.4 billion on-line, according to the company; during the same period last year, the total was $31.5 billion.

“Today eCommerce accounts for a much larger share of overall retail sales compared to a few years ago,” Michael McNamara, a vice president of MasterCard Advisors SpendingPulse, said in a statement. “During this holiday season, it registered double-digit growth for six out of seven weeks.”

Breaking online sales down by type of good, apparel was the clear leader, accounting for 18.8 percent of total sales in the online category, compared to 16.9 percent in 2009, added McNamara. Online electronics also recorded significant gains, while jewelry, though still in positive territory, lagged behind.

CMBS Investors Had a Good 2010

The New York Times reported late last week that many investors in CMBS actually have had a solid year in 2010. That happened despite the fact that commercial mortgage delinquencies are now topping out at 9 percent, when they were only about 1 percent two years ago.

“But it has been a great year for people who invest in securities backed by commercial mortgages,” the newspaper asserted. “Prices have soared.”

The reason? CMBS isn’t in terrific shape, but it isn’t nearly as bad as during mid-2009, when the securities were being offered at fire-sale prices. Since the industry has recovered (somewhat) in the last 18 months, the valuation on those securities has as well.

Christmas Price Index Soars

PNC Wealth Management reported just before Christmas that the cost of the gifts in the traditional song, “The 12 Days of Christmas,” were up 9.2 percent this year compared with last year. All those drummers drumming and pipers piping, down to the lone partridge on a certain fruit tree, would cost $23,439.38 in 2010, according to the company’s “Christmas Price Index,” which it has been calculating each year for nearly three decades.

Typically, the Christmas Price Index shadows the Consumer Price Index fairly closely, but not this year, since the CPI was up only 1.1 percent for the 12 months ending Nov. 30. The price of gold in those five rings was a major factor in moving the other CPI up so much this year. The French hens and turtle doves were also more expensive, for obscure reasons.

Wall Street was closed for the Christmas holiday on Dec. 24, following a mixed day on Dec. 23, when the Dow Jones Industrial Average eked out a 0.12 percent gain. The S&P 500 and the Nasdaq lost 0.16 percent and 0.08 percent on that day, respectively.

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