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NRF's numbers are based on data from the U.S. Census Bureau, which reported that overall December sales - including automobiles, gasoline and restaurants - were up 0.4% seasonally adjusted from November and 5.4% year-over-year. NRF had forecast that non-store sales, which include online sales, would grow between 11% and 15% to between $137.7 billion and $142.6 billion.

A separate reading of the season showed sales rose 5.7 percent in November and December combined, the best holiday period since 2005, said Craig Johnson, head of research firm Customer Growth Partners. General merchandise sales rose 0.1% from November and were up 4.4% for 2017, and department store sales fell 1.1% from November and rose 0.5% year over year.

Skype Finally Testing End-to-End Encryption to Compete with WhatsApp
Skype's implementation, Microsoft says, takes advantage of the industry standard Signal Protocol by Open Whisper Systems . It's based on the Signal Protocol, which powers Skype's new end-to-end encrypted Private Conversations feature.

In December, U.S. retail sales increased as households purchased a range of goods and the figures for the month prior were revised higher, which indicates the economy entered 2018 with strong momentum. Sales at nonstore retailers grew 1.2% following November's 4.2% increase. Sales at auto dealerships increased by 0.2 percent, while sales at service stations were unchanged. Still, tepid results from department stores and apparel retailers show that not every company will benefit from more shopper spending. Home furnishings and electronics/appliance stores came in just below at 7.5% and 6.1%, respectively. Clothing and accessories managed a 2.4% increase. "Today's strong report raised our estimate of Q4 GDP growth three-tenths to 2.6% (revised up further to 2.7% after folding in this morning's CPI report) and our forecast of Q1 GDP growth two-tenths to 2.4%".

"The improving labor market, robust consumer confidence and the imminent boost to disposable incomes from the recently-enacted tax cuts suggest that spending will continue to grow at a healthy pace over the first half of this year", said Andrew Hunter, an economist at Capital Economics. The group also credit the tax cuts for giving consumers more leeway in their budgets.

Tesco Ireland sales up 4% over key Christmas period
Online sales at M&S.com lifted 3%, while its ongoing move to pull out of worldwide markets saw overseas sales slump 9.8%. The engineering firm said that changes in US taxes will result in a one-off non-cash tax credit for 2017.

"Whether they shopped in-store, online, or on their phones, consumers were in the mood to spend, " Matthew Shay, president and chief executive of the NRF, said in a prepared statement.

Kleinhenz also said retailers had the right mix of inventory, pricing and staffing to help connect with shoppers.

Steve Bannon, former White House chief strategist, steps down from Breitbart News
When pressed for the president's personal reaction, Gidley said he had not spoken to Trump on that topic specifically. In a statement, Trump said Bannon has nothing to do with his presidency and has " lost his mind ".