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Black Friday weekend to help retailers beat Street

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U.S. retailers are poised to report November sales above forecasts, helped by an increase in shopper visits over the Black Friday weekend and more consumers buying gifts for themselves and shopping online.

   

A total of about 212 million shoppers hit stores between Thanksgiving Day on Thursday and Sunday, an increase of 8.7 percent compared with the same period in 2009, according to a survey from the National Retail Federation.

   

Spending per person rose to $365.34 from $343.31 US a year earlier, the NRF said.

   

A fuller picture of how much shoppers spent over Black Friday weekend will come on Thursday when 28 leading retailers, from department store operators Macy's Inc. and J.C. Penney Co. Inc. to discounter Target Corp. and teen retailer Aeropostale, report November sales.

   

JP Morgan analyst Charles Grom in a note to clients on Monday forecast that most retailers will likely "beat Street estimates by a wide margin."

   

"The consumer continued to show resilience as November started strong and Black Friday did not disappoint," Grom wrote, predicting that Penny, Kohl's Corp., as well upscale chains Saks Inc. and Nordstrom Inc. would report sales at stores open at least a year, or same store sales, far above Wall Street estimates.

   

U.S. shoppers spent 6.4 percent more this Black Friday weekend than last year and hit department stores and clothing shops, rather than focusing on discounters as they had done in recent years.

   

Several executives including the chief executives of Penney and Macy's, as well as industry analysts, noted that shoppers are spending more on themselves as their finances improve. JP Morgan's Grom said shoppers "were also treating themselves to a bit more than in the past."

   

A colder Thanksgiving weekend in large parts of the country also boosted sales, after a warm October prompted shoppers to delay buying items such as sweaters.

   

Retail stocks have rallied in recent months as national chains have reported month after month of improving same-store sales as the economy has stabilized and they have paid down credit card debt.

   

On Friday, the S&P Retail Index was hovering near a 52-week high, after rising 30 percent since its yearly low on July 1.

   

Wall Street Strategies analyst Brian Sozzi said on the cable television channel CNBC Monday that he expected retailers to remain cautious in their forecasts when they report November sales on Friday and refrain from increasing their sales and profit forecasts for the holiday quarter.

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