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Feds Keeping Tabs On E-Commerce

U.S. consumers stepped up their purchases over the Internet of goods such as books, clothing and toys during the first quarter of this year, the Commerce Department said on Wednesday.

E-commerce sales rose 1.2 percent in the first three months of the year to $5.26 billion from $5.198 in the fourth quarter of last year. But e-commerce sales still represented a meager 0.7 percent of the $747.8 billion of overall retail sales.

Wednesday was only the second time the Commerce Department has ever released estimates of online retail sales. It began doing so earlier this year to try to track the growing role of the Internet in the U.S. economy.

Retail e-commerce sales are estimated from the same sample used to estimate U.S. retail sales in the Monthly Retail Trade Survey. It does not include some of the most successful e-commerce businesses such as online travel services, financial traders or brokers and ticket sales.

The retail e-commerce sales estimate for the second quarter is scheduled for release in August.

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