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Economic Outlook: Imagine all the shoppers

By ANTHONY HALL, United Press International
Economic Outlook: Imagine all the shoppers

Imagine a Cyber Monday that never ends.

Think how that sounds in corporate retail boardrooms across the country, from California to the New York Island, which is to say from the Gap in San Francisco to Macy's in Manhattan.

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It sounds too good to be true -- a frenzy of shopping 24/7 without having to pay the night shift or even rent space at malls.

Kansas or Oklahoma -- or maybe both -- could house a lot of Rhode Island sized warehouses. The necessity for sport-utility vehicles would plummet because consumers wouldn't have to stuff Fussball tables and flat-screen televisions in the back: They would be ordered online and delivered to the door so consumers could all drive electric mini-cars, perhaps.

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More and more folks are working at home; more and more folks are being paid through plastic paycards or by direct deposit. Who licks a stamp, anymore? But, suddenly, the U.S. Postal Service is valuable again, delivering groceries and Nerf guns and turtlenecks.

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A few glitches: Haircuts and manicures and such. That's going to be tough. In the meantime, less dependence on foreign oil, as nobody leaves the house, anymore.

The lesson is that it's hard to play Jules Verne these days. Imagining the future is tough when the future seems to be arriving faster than it did in the slow old analogue days.

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In reality, sales on Cyber Monday -- which goes back an entire half-decade -- rose 15 percent compared to the previous year, Coremetrics reported.

The National Retail Federation said 90 percent of retailers offered deals on the Internet, a jump of 20 percentage points from 2007 when Cyber Monday was all of 2 years old.

The Washington Post reported that JC Penny marked down 40,000 items from 30 percent to 75 percent. Ebay offered discounts -- and when that happens the future is here.

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Google said the appearance of "Cyber Monday sales" on searches rose 30 percent from a year ago. Speaking of Nerf guns, there were 50 percent more online searches on Cyber Monday this year for "Nerf" than in 2009.

And thousands were scammed. With 100 million online shoppers, KCBD.com reported federal authorities seized 82 Web sites on Monday on a variety of charges from simply not delivering the goods to selling imitation items or using a sale to initiate identity theft. If you invent the future, you have to invent the future police. It comes with the territory.

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In international markets Tuesday, tension over the European Union bailout of Ireland remained in focus, as did signs that China would continue with policy adjustments to slow rampant inflation. The one-two punch pushed stocks lower.

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In Japan, the Nikkei 225 index lost 1.87 percent while the Shanghai composite index lost 1.61 percent. The Hang Seng index in Hong Kong lost 0.68 percent while the Sensex in India rose 0.6 percent.

The S&P/ASX 200 in Australia dropped 0.74 percent.

In midday trading in Europe, the FTSE 100 index in Britain fell 0.41 percent while the DAX 30 in Germany slid 0.39 percent. The CAC 40 in France dropped 0.98 percent while the Stoxx Europe 600 gave up 0.36 percent.

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