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Web sales figures may be a load of hype, according to the US government. Retail sales in the e-conomy totalled $5.3 billion for the Christmas quarter, a survey by the Commerce Department claimed yesterday. This was just 0.6 per cent of the $821 billion in overall retail sales for the last three months of 1999, and conflicts with figures from the private sector. Independent research group Forrester Communications estimated Web retail sales for the Christmas quarter totalled around $10 billion. But the official figures from the US don't wash with some economists. The government report was based on a survey of 8800 retailers. But it excluded some of the most successful cyber companies, and didn't measure airline ticket sales, services or banking. Forrester estimated customers spent $5.5 billion on goods, and a further $3.5 billion on travel or event tickets in the period. New media researchers Jupiter Communications reckoned $7 billion was spent online last November and December. For the year, it estimated an extra $4.2 billion went to online travel companies. First quarter 2000 figures from the Commerce Department are expected in May. ® Related Stories E-commerce sales to reach $3.2 trillion in 2003 Forrester predicts online banking boom Online sales hit logistical brick wall

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