NEW YORK (AP) - A major retail trade group says holiday sales rose 3.8.percent, just below the group's 3.9 percent forecast. The National Retail Federation said Tuesday that retail sales for November and December combined totaled $601.8 billion, according to the federation's analysis of government data. The 2013 figure is higher than last year's 3.5 percent pace. But sales came at the expense of profits as stores had to discount early and often to get shoppers to buy in an economy that is still challenging for many Americans. In fact, last week, a slew of major retailers including American Eagle Outfitters, and Pier 1 Imports slashed their profit forecasts. The figures include online sales.