Obama visits bookstore, promotes 'Small Business Saturday'

* Small businesses create two out of three U.S. jobs

* Retailers waiting to see effects of looming 'fiscal cliff'

WASHINGTON, Nov 24 (Reuters) - President Barack Obama, in a

bid to show support for small businesses, took his daughters on

an early Christmas shopping trip on Saturday as the U.S. retail

sector swings into high gear this holiday season.

Promoting "Small Business Saturday," the third annual event

that encourages consumers to support independently-owned local

shops, Obama took his daughters Sasha and Malia to "One More

Page Books" in Arlington, Virginia, a suburb of Washington, D.C.

"Preparation," said Obama, while talking to the store owner

at the front counter and looking at his BlackBerry, apparently

checking book titles while his daughters stood at his side.

"That's how I shop."

Over the last two decades, small businesses have created two

of every three U.S. jobs. To try to spur job growth, the Obama

administration says it aims to cut taxes for small businesses

and expand entrepreneurs' access to financing.

Both Main Street merchants and larger retailers will find

out soon if the so-called fiscal cliff that threatens to produce

tax increases and automatic spending cuts in January will subdue

shoppers and hold back spending this holiday season.

Congress and Obama are about to negotiate on a deal to avert

the roughly $600 billion in tax increases and spending cuts set

to start jolting the economy at the beginning of 2013.

Asked by reporters what is needed to cushion the economic

impact of the looming fiscal cliff, Obama declined to answer,

saying "we're doing Christmas shopping."

The White House said Obama bought 15 children's books that

will be given as Christmas gifts to family members.

Last year, more than 100 million Americans shopped locally

on Small Business Saturday, according to an estimate by American

Express.

Small businesses taking part in the initiative use social

networks like Facebook and Twitter to promote deals and attract

potential customers.

Taking to Twitter himself after the shopping excursion,

Obama wrote: "My family & I started our holiday shopping at a

local bookstore on #SmallBizSat. I hope you'll join & shop small

this holiday season."

The nationwide initiative that urges customers to open their

wallets to local businesses follows Black Friday, one the

nation's busiest shopping days at major retailers falling the

day after Thanksgiving.

The Monday after Thanksgiving is known as Cyber Monday,

where deals are found on the Internet and is more often a hit

with shoppers unwilling to brave long lines.

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