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Black Friday: Will the 'fiscal cliff' darken the mood in the malls?

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“You don’t cut down on spending $700 or $800 because no one knows what will happen in Washington,” says Bill Martin, founder of ShopperTrak, a Chicago-based retail research organization. “Now that the election is over, there is a lot of pent-up demand. Shopping for the holidays is part of a way of life.”

Although Black Friday is only one day, representing about 4 percent of holiday sales, historically economists have viewed Black Friday as a sort of early litmus test on how eager consumers are to spend for the holiday season. If there are long checkout lines and full parking lots, it might indicate a buoyant season for retailers. However, if the promotions and sales fail to entice hoards of buyers, it might indicate disappointing holiday sales.

The consensus forecast is for the Black Friday weekend and the entire holiday season to be moderately successful.

“It will be a decent holiday but not as strong as last year when holiday sales rose by 5.7 percent,” says Michael Brown, an economist at Wells Fargo Securities in Charlotte, N.C.

Last year, at year-end the unemployment rate had started to edge down and consumers’ incomes were rising faster than this year.

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