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Last Updated: Tuesday, 13 December 2005, 17:28 GMT
Mixed message for US retailers
US shopper at Target
US consumers are willing to spend, but are looking for bargains
Retail sales in the US have risen, but details in the data leave doubt about the strength of consumer confidence.

Commerce Department figures showed a rise in sales of 0.3% in November - but without motor vehicle sales, the number changed to a fall of 0.1%.

Yet much of the weakness came from lower gasoline prices. Excluding gasoline sales, retail sales rose 1%.

"This will fuel the debate about how strong consumer spending will be over the holiday season," said one analyst.

The consensus among analysts was that sales would pick up towards the end of the year, as the lower price of driving combined with better job prospects to bring people back to the shops.

Early reports from US retailers last weekend indicated that, with less than two weeks left before Christmas, stores were having to increase discounts to pull in shoppers.

Online retailers were very busy, with Walmart.com estimating that its website traffic was up "by double digits" compared to last year.

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