Americans felt the holiday shopping spirit this year, with U.S. retail sales growing at their best pace in six years, while Amazon ( AMZN ) reported a gangbusters holiday season with its customers across the world shopping at record levels.
[ibd-display-video id=3046210 width=50 float=left autostart=true] Holiday sales, excluding automobiles, rose 4.9% from Nov. 1 through Christmas Eve - the largest year-over-year increase since 2011 - with e-commerce sales vaulting 18.1% compared to a year ago, according to Mastercard SpendingPulse, which tracks both online and in-store spending.
"Overall, this year was a big win for retail," said Sarah Quinlan, a senior vice president at Mastercard. "The strong U.S. economy was a contributing factor, but we also have to recognize that retailers who tried new strategies to engage holiday shoppers were the beneficiaries of this sales increase."
The retail sector has been showing strength recently, from long-ailing department-store titans like Macy's ( M ) to thriving discount chains like Wal-Mart ( WMT ) and Costco Wholesale ( COST ). As consumers continue to shop on mobile devices or online, brick-and-mortar stores continues to see closures, lower foot traffic and bankruptcies, including those of Sports Authority and Toys R Us.
Shares of Amazon rose 0.7% on the stock market today , avoding their fifth straight modest loss. Amazon has advanced 8% from its late October breakout from a late-stage base.
Other retail stocks jumped, including a 4.6% gain for Macy's, 5.4% for JC Penney ( JCP ) and 6% for Kohl's (KSS) as department stores led all industry groups. Wal-Mart rose 1%, Best Buy (BBY) 1.1%. Costco edged up 0.1%.
Macy's hit its best levels since early May, J.C. Penney retook its 50-day moving average, Kohl's set a 1-year best and Best Buy an all-time high. Wal-Mart is one of four Dow stocks near buy points .
Macy's and Costco have advanced 26% and 8% in the past month, respectively, vs. a 3% gain for the S&P 500 and a 2% decline for Amazon.
Other retail stocks with big Tuesday gains include Children's Place (PLCE), Finish Line (FINL) and Abercrombie & Fitch (ANF).
Mastercard (MA) rose 0.3% in Tuesday trade.
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Within the consumer sector, Amazon could drive 40% to 50% of overall U.S. retail sales growth "as e-commerce gains share within retail and Amazon gains share within e-commerce," Morgan Stanley equity analyst Kimberly Greenberger wrote in a recent analysis.
Amazon reported Tuesday that more than 4 million people started Prime free trials or began paid memberships in one week of this holiday season alone. The Echo Dot smart speaker was the No. 1 selling product from any manufacturer in any category this holiday season.
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