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Shoppers rush for televisions at a Target store in Chicago November 27, 2009. Americans headed to department stores in droves in the dead of night on Friday to kick off the holiday shopping season. Black Friday, the day after U.S. Thanksgiving, is often the single busiest shopping day of the crucial holiday season, which accounts for nearly one-fifth of the retail industry's annual sales.
Shoppers rush for televisions at a Target store in Chicago November 27, 2009. Americans headed to department stores in droves in the dead of night on Friday to kick off the holiday shopping season. Black Friday, the day after U.S. Thanksgiving, is often the single busiest shopping day of the crucial holiday season, which accounts for nearly one-fifth of the retail industry's annual sales.
(John Gress/Reuters)

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On Black Friday, U.S. consumers ready to start their engines

Damn the torpedoes, say U.S. consumers. They aren’t going to let a sluggish economy, a fiscal cliff and an uncertain 2013 get in the way of their holiday cheer – or their holiday spending. Even if it means they may be headed for a cliff of their own.

This Friday, the day after U.S. Thanksgiving, is what is know in retail as “Black Friday” – so named because it serves as the unofficial kick-off of the massive end-of-year holiday shopping season that is supposed to lift retailers’ profit-and-loss ledgers into the black for the full year. The day – and the Thanksgiving four-day weekend itself – have become huge for shopping traffic and sales, as retailers launch the season with high-profile sales aimed at luring consumers and getting them into the swing of holiday buying. It has also become a key indicator of the confidence and spending appetite of U.S. consumers – a critical contributor to U.S. economic well-being.