U.S. holiday retail sales this year are the weakest since 2008. A report out Tuesday that tracks spending, called MasterCard Advisors SpendingPulse, said that holiday sales increased 0.7 percent. Analysts had expected sales to grow 3 to 4 percent.
Much of the shortfall comes from Superstorm Sandy, which caused sales declines after striking the East Coast in late October.
And consumers grew increasingly nervous as lawmakers failed to reach a deal to head off tax increases and government spending cuts set to take effect in early 2013.
The SpendingPulse number tracks sales of popular holiday goods, including electronics, jewelry and clothing, in the two months before Christmas. That's a crucial period for retailers.
FAIRBANKS, Alaska - Blind and alone in Alaskan winter temperatures that dipped 40 degrees below zero, a lost 8-year-old Fairbanks dog wasn't given much of a chance to make it home.
But after walking 10 miles to the edge of a local musher's dog yard, Abby the brown-and-white mixed breed was found and returned to her owners, a family that includes two boys and one girl under the age of 10.
The dog that the family raised from an animal-shelter puppy went missing during a snowstorm on Dec. 13, and the family never expected to see her again, The Fairbanks Daily News-Miner reported.
"It's a miracle - there's no other words to describe it," said McKenzie Grapengeter, emotion choking her voice and tears coming to her eyes.
DAVIS, Calif. - A veterinarian at the University of California, Davis, has some good news about a dog from the Philippines who became an international hero after sacrificing her snout to save two young girls.
Veterinarian Gina Davis told the San Francisco Chronicle that the dog named Kabang appears to have beaten the cancer she was suffering from.
Newspapers in the Philippines have reported that Kabang had her snout and upper jaw sheared off when she jumped in front of a speeding motorcycle, saving her owner's daughter and niece who were apparently about to be hit.
Kabang ended up in Davis earlier this year after a nurse from Buffalo, N.Y., spearheaded a fundraising campaign to bring her to the U.S.
Visitors coming to the nation's capital for President Obama's second inauguration will have a range of lodging options - with second inaugurations tending to draw fewer spectators, finding a place to stay in Washington won't be nearly as difficult as in 2009.
City officials are expecting 600,000 to 800,000 visitors for the Jan. 21 inauguration, far less than the 1.8 million people who flooded the National Mall four years ago to witness the inauguration of America's first black president. Back then, some hotels sold out months in advance and city residents rented out their homes for hundreds of dollars a night. This time, hotels say that they're filling up more slowly, with rooms still available and prices at or slightly below where they were four years ago.
In 2009, hotel occupancy in the city for the night before the inauguration was 98 percent, and visitors paid an average daily rate of more than $600 that night, according to STR, a company that tracks hotel data. This time, some hotels still have half their rooms available. As a result, some establishments have relaxed minimum stays from four nights to three and could drop prices closer to the inauguration if demand does not increase.