Morning Business Memo

After the holiday spending spree comes the new year's hangover for retailers. Today is likely to be the busiest of the season for returns. United Parcel Service expects to handle more than 550,000 - up 8 percent on last year. The increase tracks the rise of e-commerce with record numbers of people shopping online. In recent days several reports forecast online holiday sales rose about 15 percent, a far smaller increase in sales at most brick and mortar retailers.

Say goodbye to the "mancession."  Three years ago when the recession was at its peak, and hundreds of thousands of Americans were laid off each month, men were more likely than women to lose their jobs. Now as the employment market improves the trend has reversed. Men claimed more than two-thirds of the private-sector jobs created recently. USA Today reports nearly 1.28 million men gained jobs in the 12 months that ended in November, compared with 600,000 women, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).

A busy week ahead for US economic reports. The Institute for Supply Management releases its December manufacturing report today. Construction spending numbers are due from the Commerce Department. Hopes for a stronger US recovery plus positive new reports on Chinese growth and European manufacturing are giving a lift to stocks. Futures jumped this morning.

After hitting a 30-year low in 2009, U.S. auto sales are poised for a second straight year of growth in 2012 - the result of easier credit, low interest rates and pent-up demand for cars and trucks created by the Great Recession. The sales forecast bodes well for the industry's continued recovery and for the broader American economy. In 2012, car sales could climb as high as 13.8 million, close to what experts consider a healthy market - around 14 million.

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