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Holiday Sales Look Strong, Survey Says

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NEW YORK Despite earlier reports that holiday sales will be off this year, the Conference Board predicts consumer spending will in fact rise this Christmas season.

In its annual report on gift-spending intentions, the board found reasons to be hopeful.

"Consumers are in a festive mood heading into the Thanksgiving holiday," Lynn Franco, director of the Conference Board Consumer Research Center, said in a statement. "And, it appears they are willing to spend more than last year, though retailers can still expect a fair share of bargain hunters will be lining up for the traditional kickoff this Friday."

The Board said U.S. households would spend an average of $471 on gifts this year, up from last year's $449.

Online shopping continues to be strong but has flattened somewhat, the Board noted, with 38 percent of shoppers expected to hit the Web, the same number as last year. For those shopping online, books are the favorite choice at 40 percent, apparel and footwear second at 39 percent, with toys and games coming in third, closely followed by videos and DVDs.

The breakdown by amounts to be spent was almost evenly split, with 33 percent of all households intending to spend $500 or more on Christmas gifts, 35 percent spending $200-500 and the remaining 31 percent planning to spend less than $200, the Board said.

The survey of 5,000 U.S. households was conducted for the Conference Board by TNS Media Intelligence in November.