Early holiday sales, both in stores and online, reached new records in late November. Whether or not this favorable trend will continue remains to be seen, but it is an encouraging sign that consumers may be on the verge of loosening the grip on their wallets. 
 Still, there are too many crosscurrents to break out the champagne. High unemployment — still elevated at 8.6 percent in November — political uncertainty as the next election cycle heats up and weak income growth all ...

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