Stores were packed during Thanksgiving weekend, but shoppers were cautious about how much they spent.
The National Retail Federation says total spending over the four-day holiday weekend fell 2.7 percent from last year. That has to be unnerving for retailers, but it could lead to even more sales that could benefit consumers.
Despite the unusual drop in spending, the retail trade group still expects sales for the entire holiday season to rise by nearly 4 percent. Some analysts say the decline may be due to the earlier than usual sales, spreading out the buying binge that customarily starts on Black Friday.
But online sales have been strong, and are expected to be better than ever today, which is known as Cyber Monday. Almost half of the people surveyed by Nielsen say they plan to shop online. That's up substantially from last year.
ComScore (SCOR) says online sales during the Thanksgiving/Black Friday period rose a better-than-expected 17 percent from a year ago. The most visited sites were Amazon (AMZN), eBay (EBAY), Walmart (WMT), Best Buy (BBY) and Target (TGT), according to ComScore.
FedEx (FDX) says Monday will be its busiest day ever, with 22 million packages handled. By the way, the term Cyber Monday is just 8 years old. Not surprisingly, it was coined by the online industry.
On "60 Minutes" Sunday, Amazon offered an intriguing glimpse of the future that promises delivery of your purchase within minutes of placing your order. CEO Jeff Bezos said the company has been working on a plan to deliver your packages by drone. He said the company has the technology, but regulatory approval is still an issue. The story lit up on Twitter, with mostly negative comments.
Here on Wall Street, the Dow Jones industrial average (^DJI) and the Standard & Poor's 500 index (^GPSC) edged just slightly higher in last week's holiday-shortened trading, while the Nasdaq composite index (^IXIC) rose 1.7 percent. But for all of November, the Dow jumped 540 points, or 3.5 percent.
And historically, December is the best month of the year for the Dow and it's second best for the S&P.
-Produced by Drew Trachtenberg.
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