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US Retail Sales Up Slightly on 'Black Friday,' But Outlook Weak

U.S. retail sales rose slightly during the first weekend of the U.S. holiday shopping season, as consumers took advantage of big discounts in the nation's stores.

But, some analysts say the brief spending spree will not be enough to boost retail profits or spare the industry from its weakest holiday sales in years.

U.S. research company ShopperTrak says retail sales rose three percent on Friday, also known as "Black Friday," compared with last year.

The day after the U.S. Thanksgiving holiday is called "Black Friday" because it is when retailers traditionally offer discounts to try to boost sales and turn a profit, or get "into the black" for the year.

The National Retail Federation says it expects overall U.S. holiday sales to rise 2.2 percent from the previous year. But, that increase would mark the slowest sales growth in six years.

ShopperTrak monitors retail sales at more than 50,000 U.S. outlets. The NRF based its prediction on a poll of more than 3,000 consumers from Thursday through Saturday.

Analysts say consumers flocked to U.S. stores on Friday, but the number of shoppers declined the next day. They say many shoppers appeared to focus on bargains and small items, as the economic crisis forced them to cut holiday spending.

Analysts say the challenge facing U.S. retailers is to clear their seasonal inventory despite a short holiday shopping season. There are 27 shopping days between Thanksgiving and Christmas this year, compared to 32 days last year.

Economists track consumer spending because consumer demand drives about two-thirds of U.S. economic activity.

Some information for this report was provided by AFP, AP and Reuters.