Initial reports about the start of holiday shopping pointed to sales that were better than some retailers and analysts expected, but showed that consumers are extremely cautious and likely to wait for the lowest prices. Analysts are still forecasting a very difficult season.
Wall Street is well aware that without strong consumer spending, the economy will continue to languish. Any signs of further weakening in consumers' willingness to shop is likely to unnerve the market.
According to preliminary figures released by RCT ShopperTrak, a research firm that tracks total retail sales at more than 50,000 outlets, sales rose 3 percent to $10.6 billion on Black Friday — the day after Thanksgiving that is traditionally one of the biggest shopping days of the year. The trade group is expected to release data for the combined Friday and Saturday period on Monday.