Shoppers Play Grinch, Squeezing Retailers

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By John Kapetaneas

Morning Money Memo…

Holiday sales have been falling for the third straight week, down 3.1 percent nationwide through Sunday, Chicago-based researcher ShopperTrak said. U.S. store visits declined 21 percent in the week through Dec. 22. While retailers are aggressively pushing last-minute sales, consumers are indicating a willingness to withhold shopping until after the holiday season. Other factors, such as extreme weather conditions across some parts of the country, are also being blamed for the drop.

Stocks moved higher this morning, after news from the Commerce Department that Durable Goods orders jumped 3.5 percent in November, compared with a decline of .7 percent for the prior month. The positive data corresponds to sustained growth in the economy. Gold rose $4.70 to $1201.80. Crude oil traded up slightly at $99.17.

U.S. markets will close early today in observance of the holidays. The closing bell for Tuesday will be 1 p.m., and the markets will remained closed until Thursday's open.

U.S home mortgage applications fell again this week, marking a 13-year low. The Mortgage Bankers Association says its seasonally adjusted index that tracks mortgage application activity fell 6.3 percent, the lowest level since December 2000.

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