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Report: Holiday sales up 0.7%

BY Marianne Wilson

New York City — Holiday-related sales rose 0.7% from October 28 through December 24, compared with a 2% rise last year, according to a preliminary report from MasterCard Advisors Spending Pulse.

"It has been a very uneven industry performance, probably at least for the last year, and that certainly continued into the holiday season," said Michael Niemira, chief economist at the International Council of Shopping Centers, in a Reuters report.

A lull in early December and winter storms in parts of the country may have cut into sales, the report said, along with fears that taxes would rise due to the "fiscal cliff" situation.

However, some analysts cautioned that it was too early to call the holiday season a complete bust as some retailers were likely to benefit from a post-Christmas rebound.

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Port strike averted

BY Katherine Boccaccio

New York City — A federal mediator announced Friday that the union for longshoremen along the East Coast and Gulf of Mexico has agreed to extend its contract for 30 days.

The extension averts a potential strike that could have crippled operations at ports that handle about 40% of all U.S. container cargo, and it comes after the union and an alliance of port operators and shipping lines resolved a royalty payment issue that had held up contract resolution. Exact terms have not been made public.

Negotiations will continue until at least midnight on Jan. 28. Some important contract issues remain to be resolved, but the head of the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service, George Cohen, said the agreement on royalties was "a major positive step forward."

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Report: U.K. holiday shopping outpaces last year

BY Katherine Boccaccio

London — A report released Thursday by the International Council of Shopping Centers and Path Intelligence showed that U.K. consumers stepped up their pace of holiday shopping over the week ended Dec. 23.

The Path Index—which melds shopping-center footfall and the time spent per visitor into a shopper-hours index—rose by 7.9% from the prior week to its highest reading of 2012 at 151.3 (January 8, 2012 = 100) for the period ending Sunday, Dec. 23.

The index also was 1.4% higher than the comparable week of 2011 and was the highest reading since the index inception in January 2011.

Cumulatively and compared to the prior year for the weeks of December to date, the Path Index is 3.8% below its average shopper-hours for the comparable weeks. However, given that Christmas Eve afforded consumers one-more day of shopping—even though retail centers generally close earlier than normal on Christmas Eve—that business will be captured in the index for the week ending December 30.

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