NEW YORK/SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - Retailers from Amazon.com Inc to Target Corp offered steep online discounts to shoppers on Cyber Monday, aiming to win additional sales after a strong start to the holiday shopping season over the weekend.
Shares of Amazon rose as much as 2.6 percent to an all-time high of $181.84, while smaller rival Overstock.com surged 8.1 percent and Web jeweler Blue Nile gained 5.3 percent on indications of strong traffic to retail sites.
The Monday after the U.S. Thanksgiving holiday was dubbed Cyber Monday five years ago to get consumers to focus on online shopping. But retailers have been increasingly offering online deals on Thanksgiving Day and over the holiday weekend as well.
"I would expect Cyber Monday to be as strong as sales were this weekend," said Maggie Taylor, a senior credit officer with Moody's Investors Service.
Despite competition from other days over the Thanksgiving weekend, Cyber Monday is still a big draw and could generate $900 million to $1 billion in sales, according to Jefferies analyst Youssef Squali.
Last year, Cyber Monday sales were $887 million, according to analytics firm comScore, which plans to release Cyber Monday data on Wednesday. Total 2009 U.S. online sales were $130 billion.
EBay Inc's PayPal unit reported a 21 percent rise in total payment volume on Cyber Monday over last year as of 11 am PST. It said that data point, which measures the total value of goods sold, was 34 percent higher on Cyber Monday than on Black Friday of this year.
Meanwhile, IBM Coremetrics reported that online sales as of 12:00 pm PST rose 15 percent year over year.
"The data does suggest that consumers are spending more time online this year with their spending plans, which would bode well for Amazon," analyst Hamed Khorsand of BWS Financial wrote in a note to investors.
Amazon.com deals included a TomTom portable GPS navigator for $89.99, a discount of 61 percent, a Canon flash memory Camcorder for $229 after a 40 percent discount and Barbie Fashion Fairytale Palace at $64.99 instead of $114.99.
Walmart.com did not indicate how much it had marked down items, but offered a Playstation 3 video game console bundle for $388 and a Philips 22-inch LCD HDTV for $209, among other deals.
For a graph on historical Web sales over the Thanksgiving weekend, click here: r.reuters.com/fuc67q.
Consumers headed to stores as well as to their computers this Thanksgiving weekend, with online sales from Thursday through Sunday up 14.4 percent versus the same period last year, according to IBM Coremetrics.
Caris & Co analyst Sandeep Aggarwal said that was encouraging for e-commerce, which in recent years has outperformed brick-and-mortar retail but can still be hit by cautious consumer spending.
"Increasing online traffic, continuation of accelerated adoption of e-commerce and some improvement in average order size are the key highlights of this year's holiday season," Aggarwal wrote in a note to investors.
He said Amazon, eBay and GSI Commerce, which helps retailers sell online, stood to benefit.
Blue Nile Inc Chief Executive Diane Irvine said Cyber Monday was a bigger selling day for the online diamond seller than Black Friday, the day after Thanksgiving when retailers hope sales will turn bottom lines to black from red. She said Blue Nile's online traffic rose 20 percent.
But she added, Blue Nile's biggest selling day is December 20 -- just five days before Christmas when consumers hustle to place orders.
ComScore found that online spending on Thanksgiving Day rose 28 percent from a year ago to $407 million. The company expects overall online sales for November and December to rise 11 percent to $32.4 billion, compared with the same time last year.
The National Retail Federation said about 33.6 percent of those who shopped during the 4-day holiday weekend bought goods online, up 15 percent from the same time last year. The group estimated that of the $365.34 consumers spent on average, about 33 percent went to online businesses compared with 30.2 percent last year.
A survey by America's Research Group showed that 18.1 percent of those polled said they would buy online on Monday, compared with 25 percent a year ago.
That may be because many consumers shopped over the weekend, the group's president, Britt Beemer, said.
Traditional retailers with websites are competing more fiercely for online sales. Some are drawing consumers to their stores via online purchases. For example, Best Buy and Wal-Mart allow shoppers to buy online and pick up those purchases in stores.
Wal-Mart, the world's largest retailer, is also going head-to-head with Amazon by offering free delivery of certain merchandise during the holidays.
Editing by Michele Gershberg, Matthew Lewis and Richard Chang