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Retail Sales Rise 0.3% in November

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- Americans spent more money online last month but department store spending tumbled. The U.S. Commerce Department said Thursday that retail sales rose 0.3 percent during the month of November, a rebound from October’s decline.

"The November retail sales numbers were pretty good," economist Joel Naroff, with Naroff Economic Advisors in Holland, Pa., tells ABC News.

“Households are back at the malls,” Naroff says. “They're back out buying. They are feeling better about things.”

“When you look at the details, the one thing holding things back were gasoline purchases, and that was largely because of a sharp drop in prices.”

Totals could be even better for this month, Naroff adds, if Congress can figure out a way to avoid fiscal cliff tax hikes, set to kick in at the start of the New Year.

“If we can only get over that problem…I think we will see consumers really start buying, businesses hiring again and this economy can pick up steam," Naroff says.

So will all this talk of a fiscal cliff take a serious toll on holiday sales?

“I simply say let's see what they do, rather than what they say," he said, "and I have a feeling that the holiday shopping season will turn out to be pretty good.”

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

ABC News Radio