Unlike much internet propaganda, the latest upbeat data comes from a source with no axe to grind – the US Commerce Department.

According to the department, online commerce during the quarter ended June 30 totaled $12.5 billion (€1.15bn; £0.80bn), or 1.5% of all period sales. This compares year-on-year with 1.2% and represents the second largest slice of retail sales since the survey started in 1999. But the latest surge still lags Q4 2002 when internet purchases accounted for 1.6% of all retail sales.

The rise – which excludes online travel services and ticket sales – is attributed to free shipping and other discounts, as well as security concerns. Some observers believe that fears over terrorism and backlash from the war on Iraq have prompted many Americans to stay home and shop.

Said eBay ceo Margaret Whitman: “We're feeling good about the third quarter, and, of course, feeling good about the full-year results.” Amazon is likewise bullish, having recently narrowed second quarter losses and predicted that full-year sales could exceed estimates.

The Commerce Department data was culled from 11,000 businesses, among them mail order and online retailers, furniture, department and clothing stores, and building materials dealers.

Data sourced from: New York Times; additional content by WARC staff