US shops expect weak Black Friday
US shoppers appear less willing to spend their money
As US retailers prepare for Black Friday, the day after Thanksgiving that marks the start of the Christmas season, festive cheer seems limited.
With US economic growth hit by the downturn in the housing market, and the knock-on credit crisis, recent data has shown a sharp fall in retail spending.
And as US consumers seem less willing or able to spend, most retail analysts expect this downturn to continue.
"The holiday season will be terrible," said economist Ian Shepherdson.
Higher petrol prices and volatile financial markets have also hit US consumers.
The most recent official data from the Commerce Department showed that retail sales rose by just 0.2% in October, compared with September's 0.7% gain.
At the same time, some of America's largest retail firms, such as Macy's, Limited Brands, JC Penny and Nordstrom, have all seen same-store sales fall last month.
"We expect a further deterioration as consumers cut back in the face of soaring petrol prices, falling stock prices and the continued disaster in housing," said Mr Shepherdson, who works for research group High Frequency Economics.
The downturn in the housing market has centred on record levels of mortgage defaults in the so-called sub-prime sector, which specialises in higher risk loans to people with poor credit histories, or those on lower incomes.
Most of the main US banks have subsequently lost millions of dollars after having to write-off their exposure to this bad debt.
The crisis has made the banks much less willing to lend among themselves or to other borrowers, both reducing and pushing up the price of available credit.
America's central bank, the Federal Reserve, has confirmed that US economic growth is now slowing.
Earlier this week it cut its forecast for 2008's economic growth to a range of 1.8% to 2.5%.
Previously it has predicted growth of between 2.5% and 2.75% for next year.