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Woman on the computerAccording to MYFoxLA web retailers rang up a very merry Christmas this year, with Americans going online to buy electronics, jewelry and even clothing in record amounts this season, according to several new reports cited by The Wall Street Journal Friday.

Consumers also hit the virtual stores earlier than ever, lured by an increase in free-shipping offers and a plethora of online deals.

US internet sales rose 15.4 percent, to $36.4 billion, between Oct. 31 and Dec. 23, according to MasterCard SpendingPulse, a unit of MasterCard Advisors that tracks sales at 72,000 retailers. In the same span a year ago, internet sales rose 15.2 percent from a smaller base.

The current year’s increase is “a very healthy growth rate and one of the positive stories of 2010,” said Michael MacNamara, vice president of research and analysis at SpendingPulse.

Sales over the internet now account for about 10 percent of all retail sales, excluding purchases of automobiles and gas, according to SpendingPulse.

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