Morning Business Memo

Hope or hype? More positive talk today about the start of the holiday shopping season. IBM Smarter Commerce, a web tracking firm, says online sales shot up 18 percent on Cyber Monday, compared with a year ago.  Other firms report strong gains for online shopping. But this is part of a broad technological trend.

Much of the online increase could come at the expense of traditional brick and mortar retailers. Dan Schock, retail industry director at Google, says Cyber Monday is not even the busiest online shopping day. The weekend before Christmas is likelier to be busier. More promotions will be launched to keep consumers interested. “There will be deals and discounts continuing throughout the month,” says Schock.

The Case Schiller home price index comes out this morning. The survey of the 20 largest US metropolitan areas is unlikely to show much improvement. Stan Humphries, chief economist at Zillow real estate, expects Case Shiller to report a 3.2 percent annual price decline. The economy has been dragged down by a four-year housing slump. Yesterday the Commerce Department reported a 1.3 percent increase in new home sales. But the total is less than half the number of sales in a healthy US housing market.

European finance ministers are meeting again today. The big fear facing them is the potential breakup of Euro Zone – the world’s largest free trade bloc. There are reports of fresh moves to keep euro from imploding. Among the proposals reported to be under discussion: nations could cede control of their budgets to a central European authority. Germany and the 16 other nations in the Euro zone might decide to sell bonds together.

Facebook is reported to be moving closer to an IPO. The share offering could value the social networking site at more than $100 billion. The Wall Street Journal says Facebook now appears poised to go ahead with the deal, perhaps next spring.

Stock market futures rose this morning after a 2.9 percent gain yesterday for the broad-based Standard & Poor’s 500 index. The markets responded to hopes for a strong holiday shopping season and reports of progress on the European debt crisis.

Richard Davies, Business Correspondent, ABC NEWS Radio

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