WASHINGTON - In the United States, it's Cyber Monday, a day when holiday shoppers could set a new spending record for online purchases from work, home or anywhere with their cellphones.
With rising wages in the U.S., low unemployment and strong consumer confidence, research firm Adobe Analytics predicted shoppers could spend $6.6 billion on Monday, more than a 16 percent jump over last year's record-setting total.
Online shopping has been increasing steadily in the U.S. for years as many consumers stay away from traditional brick-and-mortar stores in favor of the convenience of shopping from laptop computers, hand-held devices or, to the dismay of their employers, workplace computers.
Black Friday, the day after last week's Thanksgiving holiday in the U.S., is traditionally the biggest holiday shopping day of the year, coming a few weeks ahead of gift-giving at Christmas and Hanukkah. Equity firm Consumer Growth Partners estimated Friday's sales, both in stores and online, at about $33 billion, a 4.8 percent advance over 2016.
Even as shoppers, lured by discounted prices, thronged to stores on Friday to buy the latest tech gadgets, toys and clothing, retailers reported that overall, the number of shoppers in their stores dipped a bit, an indication that many buyers were instead shopping online.
The National Retail Federation is predicting that U.S. consumer spending in November and December could climb 4 percent over a year ago to $682 billion, which would make this the strongest holiday shopping season since 2014.
Two of the biggest online retailers in the U.S., Amazon.com and Wal-Mart Stores, are about even in offering the lowest prices on a large array of consumer items, a Reuters survey showed. A year ago, products bought through Amazon were typically 3 percent cheaper, but the news agency said its survey showed that Wal-Mart has now narrowed the gap to three-tenths of 1 percent.
The boost in consumer spending, which accounts for 70 percent of the U.S. economy, the world's largest, is buoyed by a falling jobless rate. The unemployment rate was 4.1 percent in October, the lowest level in 17 years, and employers hired another 261,000 workers.