Holiday Spending: Best Since Before the Recession

holiday spending 2010 Spending in the 50 days before Christmas increased 5.5 percent -- the best sales since before the recession, reports The New York Times. According to the figures collected by MasterCard, that comes out to about $584.3 billion. Not figured into that sum are the numbers from some retailers who do not report their December earnings until January.

This return of consumers to spending has exceeded even the most rosy of economic forecasts. So, why did it happen?

Experts view the surge as happening for several reasons, some of which are interrelated.

Stock market. Some stock prices are at their highest in two years, restoring confidence in the economy for those who weren't so bad off to begin in. This sense of optimism tends to be contagious.

Luxury Market. The market segments who love their luxury goods have returned to bellying up to the counters at Tiffany et al. This behavior at the high end has encouraged those in the middle to spend again.

Pent Up Demand. Frugality seems to be able to endure just so long in America, at some point it appears that we all collectively remember that we live in the land that coined the phrase "shop 'til you drop". It looks like consumers were looking for a reason to spend and there's no better reason than the holidays.

Unemployment as the new normal. The nearly 10 percent unemployment rate that we've all been living with during this recession has in many ways been factored into the American consciousness as the new normal.

Americans are starting to view unemployment not only as a condition through which some citizens take a temporary detour, but more as a place where a portion of the population remain indefinitely. In several European countries, residents are accustomed to have a class of chronically unemployed citizens.

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