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Retailers mostly cheerful with early holiday results

The Washington Post

A burst of last-minute buying and widespread markdowns boosted sales at the nation’s retailers in the last full week before Christmas, but many shoppers appeared to not be rushing into two of the holiday season’s biggest names, Wal-Mart and Target.
For the week ending Dec. 20, retail sales rose 5.7 percent from the same period in 2002, according to the International Council of Shopping Centers-UBS retail index, which tracks the results of 79 chain stores. Last year, sales were up 1.7 percent over 2001.
The council predicts a sales increase of 4 percent for the entire November-December shopping period, compared with a 0.5 percent increase in 2002, in what could be a boost for the overall economy.
Michael P. Niemira, chief economist for the council said the season looks like the best since 1999.