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    Retail Sales Up but Holiday Sales May be Soft

    NEW YORK - Heavy promotions and extended store hours lured U.S. shoppers last week as the holiday buying season began, but some analysts doubted whether the gains would be sustained as Christmas nears.

    NEW YORK - Heavy promotions and extended store hours lured U.S. shoppers last week as the holiday buying season began, but some analysts doubted whether the gains would be sustained as Christmas nears.

    Sales at U.S. chain stores grew 0.3 percent in the week ended Nov. 30 after a 0.9 percent rise in the preceding week, the Bank of Tokyo-Mitsubishi and UBS Warburg said on Tuesday. A separate weekly reading of the retail sector, Instinet's Redbook report, showed a 0.5 percent gain in sales during the month of November.

    However, the positive results may not carry through, said analysts.

    "Consumer spending has been relatively choppy, and I'm not sure we've really changed anything on that front," said Mike Niemira, a senior economist at Bank of Tokyo-Mitsubishi who closely follows the retail industry. "We're looking for slightly better results than the last couple of years, but the last couple of years have been a relatively dismal performance," he added.

    November sales results varied widely. No. 2 U.S. drug store chain CVS Corp. said on Tuesday same-store sales increased 10.2 percent in November from a year earlier. Total sales in the four weeks ended Nov. 23 also rose 10.2 percent, to $1.93 billion from $1.75 billion a year earlier.

    Walgreen Co. said on Tuesday same-store sales increased 7 percent in November from a year earlier.

    Wal-Mart Stores Inc. on Saturday reported record one-day sales for the day after Thanksgiving, which Redbook said represented a 14 percent gain over "Black Friday" last year.

    Wal-Mart said it racked up $1.43 billion in sales on Friday at its U.S. stores. That compares to sales of $1.25 billion last year, and is the biggest single-day sales figure ever for the retailer.

    Some holiday sales are clearly going to online retailers. BizRate.com said online sales on Black Friday jumped 61 percent to $234 million. BizRate is an online comparison-shopping site that monitors more than 2,000 online retail merchants.

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