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Will The American Consumer Save the World Economy?

By Mahyar Hashemi, Published: November 30th, 2008 12:04 PM CST

Retail industry research firm, ShopperTrak RCT, has declared that total Black Friday sales rose 3% this year, to about $10.6 billion nationwide.

So far, that appears to be higher than expected as analysts have cut their outlooks considerably.

Overall sales for the holiday are expected to rise 2.2%, which would be higher than the 2002 holiday, where sales only grew by 1.3%.

The question now on everybody's mind is will the 3% rise in Black Friday sales lead to an overall 3% sales bump.

The answer seems to be no.  Last year's Black friday saw an 8% year over year pop while the full holiday saw only a 2.4% bump.  That suggests that we may want to consider a similar 6% drop from Black Friday, leaving us with a negative 3% year over year number.  Marshal Cohen, chief retail analyst for NPD Group has predicted exactly that number.  And analysts as a whole point out to the fact that this holiday has fewer days due to the late Thanksgiving this year.

With last week's rise in the stock market, there may be some shock still left to deliver to the stock market.  A negative 5% year, for example, could decimate retail margins and cause reason for long term concern.  It is important to note, for example, that a damper may have been applied to holiday shopping after the tragic death of a Wal Mart worker.  If the holiday proves to be a miserable failure, at that point, it will be interesting to see if the market can look at the bigger picture, given that through october and Novermber fundamentals have been largely ignored - the bigger picture being that Americans are still consuming - that if you go to a mall, you will wonder, "what recession?"

The American consumer is still the primary driver of the world economy.  That may slowly change.  But for now, the global collapse has proven the world's reliance on American consumption.  It is a fundamental yet maybe even moreso a psychological phenomenon that comes from America's military status, Hollywood, Olympic achievements, flag, national anthem, etc.  As long as that system of world leadership remains in place, people will continue to wonder, "what debt?"

Related: GME, BBY

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