Monday, November 24, 2014 · 12:07 a.m.

Holiday retail sales sluggish, could pick up in last week

Fiscal cliff worries could have slowed spending

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Preliminary numbers show sluggish sales growth for this holiday season. (Photo: Contributed)

Retail sales for this holiday season have been disappointing, but sales during the last week of December may still provide businesses with a boost, according to new reports. 

Preliminary numbers show that holiday retail sales grew at a sluggish pace compared to last year—the weakest since 2008, when the country was in a recession, according to The Associated Press.

A report from the MasterCard Advisors SpendingPulse showed that, in the two months before Christmas, electronics, clothing and jewelry sales increased by 0.7 percent over last year, The Associated Press reported. 

That's compared to a 2 percent increase last year compared to 2010, according to Reuters

The National Retail Federation had predicted it would increase by 4.1 percent, and Reuters reported that research firm ShopperTrek had expected a 2.5 increase. 

A 4 percent increase is considered healthy, also according to The Associated Press. 

But there may still be time for sales to grow more. 

About 15 percent of December's sales come during the last week of the month, according to Forbes.

Weather, such as Hurricane Sandy, and concerns about the fiscal cliff debate may have stifled spending. 

One in three Americans has reined in personal spending in the past 30 days because they are worried about the fiscal cliff, according to a new report from Bankrate.com and Nooga.com archives

Anyone who isn't exactly sure what the fiscal cliff is isn't alone. Comedian Jimmy Kimmel recently asked pedestrians to explain the fiscal cliff. Most couldn't. 

Although a writer from The Atlantic says "cliff" is not an apt word to describe the situation, "fiscal cliff" is a term being used to define the situation the American government will face at the end of 2012 when an increase in taxes combines with spending cuts. 

Many government programs, such as the defense budget and Medicare, are likely to see big budget cuts if an agreement isn't reached, according to About.com. Click here for further explanation. 

NPR reported that President Barack Obama made plans to cut his holiday short and had plans to leave Hawaii for Washington Wednesday evening. 

Congress is expected to reconvene in Washington Thursday.

Obama and members of Congress are working to reach a budget agreement.

If that doesn't happen, automatic budget cuts and tax increases will go into effect in January, and economists warn that the budget cuts and tax increases would prompt another recession, also according to NPR. 

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