December Internet traffic rose 5.4%; multi-channel sites led retail user growth

December Internet traffic increased 5.4% from last year's comparable period, according to comScore data cited by Merrill Lynch (NYSE:MER) (OOTC:MERIZ) in an Internet and online commerce sector note.

Yahoo (NASDAQ:YHOO) emerged as the most visited Web property, followed by Google, Microsoft (NASDAQ:MSFT) and Time Warner. (NYSE:TWX)

Analyst Justin Post remains positive on Yahoo's long-term ability to capitalize on its traffic base, largely boosted by its sports and finance properties, which were up 30%.

'Google's user and page view growth continues to outpace the Internet, with a 76% increase in page views and a 18% increase in users during December,' Post said.

Retail user traffic growth slowed to 4% in December from the year-prior. Multi-channel retailers' 11% growth exceeded both e-commerce and comparison shopping traffic, both of which slowed slightly from the same period last year.

Amazon gained 15% in user growth at the same time that eBay's (NASDAQ:EBAY) users declined 5% from last year.

YouTube is another burgeoning site, with user growth up 91% and page views more than tripling compared to last year's period.

'YouTube continues to grow its leadership in the video category, and Google's ability to successfully monetize video could be a new source of revenues in 2008,' Post said. His target stock price for Google is $740.

Shares of the Mountain View, Calif.-based company were down 0.4% at $650.94. Yahoo shares were up 6.1% at $23.93 and stock of online retailer Amazon was up 0.1% at $85.23.

more by Melinda Peer

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