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Cyber Monday bargain hunters out earlier

Shoppers hit e-commerce sites early Monday, and traffic is already surpassing last year's peak, according to initial data from Akamai.

The day's not yet over, and already there are more Cyber Monday shoppers than last year.

Although information on how much money people are spending and what they're buying Monday won't be available until Tuesday afternoon at the earliest, we know just from traffic to retail Web sites that shoppers are out in force. According to Akamai's Net Usage Index for Retail, which tracks traffic to a representative set of more than 270 global e-commerce sites in real time, that global traffic as of noon Monday is already surging past last year's peak.

Global traffic to retail sites hit 7.79 million visitors per minute at 12 p.m. Pacific; North American traffic came in at 4.17 million. That's already more than 1 million, or 16 percent, more than last year's global traffic peak of 6.71 million visitors per minute at 11:30 a.m. Pacific. And Monday isn't yet over.

The data also shows that people were hitting retail sites earlier this year. Akamai's earliest milestone is 6:30 am Pacific. As of that time Monday, global traffic was at 5.79 million visitors per minute, and North American at 3.19 million visitors per minute. On this day last year by the same time, global traffic was at 4.97 million visitors per minute, while North American traffic had hit just 2.3 million visitors per minute.

Worldwide, that's a 16.5 percent uptick in retail-site surfing, and a more impressive 39 percent jump in visitors to North American retail sites.

Of course, traffic doesn't necessarily translate to sales, and we'll find out in the next few days how it did--or didn't. But so far the data is following the pattern seen for Thanksgiving Day and Black Friday online shopping this year. ComScore reported Sunday that global retail traffic on those days was up 10 percent and 11 percent, respectively.