Holiday cheer for retailers

Jolly time for retail

Retail companies got a bit of post-Christmas cheer last week after investors got an early report showing that U.S. consumers opened their wallets over the holiday season. A survey by Mastercard showed that holiday sales increased by 3.4% from a year ago. Most of that growth came from online retail sales, which were up 18.8% from a year earlier. The news sent shares of retailers and related companies jumping.

The companies that make up the consumer discretionary part of the S&P 500, which includes companies like Hasbro, Ralph Lauren, Nordstrom and Macy’s all rose after the report came out. The Mastercard SpendingPulse survey is an early, but generally reliable snapshot into consumer spending, since Mastercard and Visa hold an effective duopoly over the payments systems and can see changes in consumer behavior. The figures do not take into account spending on Visa, which is larger, and American Express, which often includes higher-ticket purchases.