U.S. online retail spending reached a record-breaking $43.4 billion in the fourth quarter, fueled by strong holiday spending, Comscore reports.

Spending in the fourth quarter was up 11 percent over a year ago, representing the fifth consecutive quarter of positive annual growth and the second quarter of double-digit growth rates in the past year.

In 2010, holiday spending online was bolstered by the first-ever billion-dollar day on record, and others surpassing $900 million. The strong growth rates are a huge swing from two years ago, when fourth-quarter sales fell by 3 percent.

The bulk of online sales occur among the top 25 online retailers, which accounted for 68.4 percent of dollars spent.

As the largest e-commerce provider, Amazon turned in a fourth-quarter performance that mirrored Comscore's findings. Amazon reported its first $10 billion quarter ever and saw year-over-year growth rates of 40 percent (its best growth rate since 2000).

In a release, Comscore Chairman Gian Fulgoni predicted that the increased spending levels will continue this year: "We anticipate that the progress we've seen in the past year as we climbed out of the recession will continue with sustained double-digit growth rates in 2011."

Other highlights:

The top categories were computer software, consumer electronics, digital books and magazines, computers and peripherals, and toys and hobbies. 84 percent of U.S. Internet users conducted an online transaction in the period, up from 78 percent last year.

(Credit: Comscore)

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