US retail sales from November 28 to December 27 rose more than five percent over the same period last year, reports Chicago-based retail research firm ShopperTrak. The data is based on monitoring over 30,000 outlets coast-to-coast.

In the final week to December 27, consumers finally redeemed themselves in the hearts and vaults of US retailers with a 24.6% spending surge.

Says Michael Niemira, a consultant at ShopperTrak: "With December shaping up to finish 6% stronger than last year -- and November already up nearly 5% -- we can say that this should be the strongest holiday retail season since 1999."

• More good news on the US economic front. The Labor Department reported Wednesday that new applications filed for unemployment insurance dropped a seasonally adjusted 15,000 to 339,000 in the week ending December 27 -- the third week in succession that claims fell. This reduces the newly jobless figure to that extant on January 20, 2001, by coincidence the day President Bush took office.

Data sourced from: Financial Times and USA Today; additional content by WARC staff