Worried shoppers spent less this holiday season

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Christmas shoppers thronged malls and pounced on discounts but apparently spent less this year, their spirits dampened by concerns about the economy and the aftermath of shootings and storms.

More than just the usual job worries are clouding the mood: Confidence among U.S. consumers dipped to its lowest point in December since July amid rising economic worries, according to a monthly index released Friday.

Marshal Cohen, chief research analyst at NPD Group, a Port Washington market research firm with a network of analysts at shopping centers nationwide, estimates customer traffic over the weekend was in line with the same time a year ago, but that shoppers seem to be spending less.

"There was this absence of joy for the holiday," Cohen said. "There was no Christmas spirit. There have been just too many distractions."

Shoppers are increasingly worried about the "fiscal cliff" deadline -- the possibility that a stalemate between Congress and the White House over the U.S. budget could trigger a series of tax increases and spending cuts starting Jan. 1.

The recent Newtown, Conn., school shooting also dampened shoppers' spirits atop the fall's retail woes after superstorm Sandy's passage up the East Coast.

-- AP

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