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Experts: Boost in Holiday Shopping Indicates Increased Confidence

Tim Boyle/Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- With only five days left before Christmas, holiday shoppers are flooding the malls and local stores.

Nearly half of shoppers have not finished their Christmas shopping yet, according to a National Retail Federation survey, and the traditional biggest shopping days -- Black Friday, Cyber Monday, and Green Monday -- are all behind us.  The outlook seems to be that it's shaping to be a robust season for the economy.

Experts say this year consumers have the upper hand, as stores opened for extended hours and online vendors offered major discounts, some even with free shipping.

"The holiday season this year favors the consumer," Ellen Davis of the National Retail Federation told ABC News.  "Retailers have been very promotional, they know that the average shopper is still looking for a deal, spending on a budget, is very focused on small, discretionary items, basics and necessities."

On Thursday, the National Retail Federation revised its holiday sales forecast upwards from 2.8 percent -- which it had forecast in October -- to 3.8 percent, for a record $469.1 billion.  While this is still below the 5.2 percent for 2010, it's above average for the past decade, and holiday shopping isn't even over.

Experts say that despite the tough job market and the weak stock and house prices, Christmas is shaping up to be surprisingly strong for retailers.

"Households are spending with some gusto," said Mark Zandi, Chief Economist for Moody's Analytics.

Zandi told ABC News that increased confidence is helping both low and high income households finally start spending after long holding off.

"A solid Christmas buying season will set a very positive tone for the economy going into 2012," Zandi said.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

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