for-phone-onlyfor-tablet-portrait-upfor-tablet-landscape-upfor-desktop-upfor-wide-desktop-up

Retail season off to solid start: SpendingPulse

Shoppers look at electronics in a store in New York's Time's Square November 23, 2007. Holiday sales were off to a strong start, according to data from SpendingPulse released on Wednesday, easing concerns about a possible sharp pullback in consumer spending this season. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Holiday sales were off to a strong start, according to data from SpendingPulse released on Wednesday, easing concerns about a possible sharp pullback in consumer spending this season.

Sales excluding cars rose 0.8 percent in November, MasterCard Advisors’ data service found, following October’s anemic 0.2 percent increase. When gasoline was also excluded, sales jumped 1 percent.

The U.S. economy has slowed considerably in the fourth quarter, economists say, but consumer spending has held up relatively well.

Many fear the combination of a housing downturn and credit crisis could compromise this key engine of U.S. growth.

“It was a solid start but there are a lot of concerns out there about December,” said Michael McNamara, vice-president of research and analysis at SpendingPulse.

He said a promotional frenzy led to a huge surge in sales during Black Friday, the day after the Thanksgiving holiday that marks the start of the shopping season for retailers.

But McNamara added that the burst did not persist through the end of the month, raising doubts about December’s performance. The last two months of the year account for as much as a quarter of U.S. yearly retail sales.

There were also signs that the housing recession was affecting spending patterns. The report registered a 0.9 percent drop in sales of home furnishings.

The U.S. Commerce Department will release its official tally of November sales on Thursday. Wall Street is looking for a 0.6 percent rise.

Reporting by Pedro Nicolaci da Costa; Editing by James Dalgleish

for-phone-onlyfor-tablet-portrait-upfor-tablet-landscape-upfor-desktop-upfor-wide-desktop-up