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What will holiday shoppers spend? A global perspective

THE AVERAGE holiday shopper will spend $749 this year, according to the National Retail Federation's holiday consumer spending survey conducted by BIGinsight.

That's up from the $740.57 last year, the federation said.

The holiday season won't be as jolly for European retailers, according to The Wall Street Journal. Unemployment is 11.6 percent and the euro-zone economy is in recession.

"Consumers in Greece - ground zero of the sovereigndebt crisis - plan to cut spending on presents and food by 16 percent this holiday season, according to a study by Deloitte LLP," The Journal reported. "Shoppers in Spain and Italy are scaling back as much as 4 percent."

It's not doom and gloom across the entire continent. French shoppers are planning to spend slightly more this year and Germans retail sales are also expected to rise.

The Journal noted, however, "Germans tend to be more frugal at Christmas, which is often celebrated in smaller family groupings and involves less lavish food than in France, for example, where foie gras and Champagne are holiday staples."

The Deloitte survey says the average German family plans to spend about $631 for Christmas this year, while the average French family plans to spend about $832.

"Ireland, where people typically spend a lot at Christmas, also stands out," The Journal reported. Deloitte predicts Irish households will spend $1,257 on average this year, "the most of any country in the euro zone," The Journal reported.

West Virginia ranks 58th in economic freedom in North America, according to a study published by the Fraser Institute.

The study, "Economic Freedom of North America 2012," ranks all 50 states and 10 Canadian provinces using 2010 data - the most recent available. The study examines size of government, tax policies, and labor market freedom.

The province of Alberta has the most economic freedom, with Delaware coming in second, Saskatchewan third, Texas fourth, Nevada fifth, and Wyoming sixth.

West Virginia ranks just above New Mexico and Prince Edward Island.

Virginia ranks 26th; Pennsylvania, 41st; Maryland, 42nd; Ohio, 43rd, and Kentucky, 54th.

The study, posted online at www.fraserinstitute.org, is described as "an attempt to gauge the extent of the restrictions on economic freedom imposed by governments in North America." It has stirred some controversy. The Dallas Morning News described the Fraser Institute as a libertarian policy group. It is based in Vancouver, British Columbia.

According to the study, "Economic freedom increases the affluence of individuals." The 10 states at the bottom of the index had an average per capita gross domestic product in 2010 of $38,017 compared to an average of $48,319 for the other 40 states, the study said.

Footnote: One of the study's authors, Nathan Ashby, is an assistant professor of economics at the University of Texas at El Paso. He earned his master's and doctorate in economics at West Virginia University.

Reach George Hohmann at business@dailymail.com or 304-348-4836. Follow him at www.Twitter.com/GeorgeHohmann.


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