The holiday shopping season was a dud. Sure, (NASDAQ:AMZN) was quick to point out how its fourteenth Christmas in cyberspace was its "best ever" -- but good luck trying to squeeze that kind of optimism out of the rest of the space.

Data from MasterCard's SpendingPulse market-watching arm pegged December spending through Christmas Eve at 8% below last year's showing. That's a bleak deterioration from the 5.5% dip it saw in November.

The good news is that retail gasoline sales are included in SpendingPulse's metrics. Back out the welcome relief of pain at the pump and retail activity fell by a more modest 2.5% last month and 4% this month. Either way, it's still pointing in the wrong direction. It's more miss than mistletoe.

The industry now turns to post-holiday sales and the hope that gift card redemptions can save the day. Don't wait up for that. Just take solace that the 2009 shopping season is now less than 11 months away.

Briefly in the news
And now let's take a quick look at some of the other stories that shaped our week.

  • Sirius XM Radio (NASDAQ:SIRI) got tugged in both directions during the holidays. On the one hand, Moody's (NYSE:MCO) downgraded the company's debt. It's a bad sign, especially at a time when the satellite radio provider is trying to refinance its debt. On the other hand, the company successfully managed to sway some of its debt holders to swap their stake in a Sirius convertible that is due in two months for shares of Sirius at a premium to its current trading price.
  • As Microsoft (NASDAQ:MSFT) continues to extend the lifeline of Windows XP -- now more than ever, given the popularity of netbooks that lack the ideal resources to run the features-rich yet reputation-poor Vista operating system -- will XP ever die? The real question is if it will still be available when Vista hands over the baton to Windows 7.
  • Apple (NASDAQ:BIDU) is topping the list of the world's most influential companies in BusinessWeek. You've come a long way, Apple. I can't be the only one who remembers when Apple was just a niche computing player. As fellow Fool Tim Beyers points out, Microsoft didn't even make the cut.

Until next week, I remain,

Rick Munarriz

This article represents the opinion of the writer, who may disagree with the “official” recommendation position of a Motley Fool premium advisory service. We’re motley! Questioning an investing thesis -- even one of our own -- helps us all think critically about investing and make decisions that help us become smarter, happier, and richer.