Since consumer spending drives two-thirds of the U.S. economy, the yearly risk that shoppers will overindulge on Black Friday offers a good news/bad news scenario.
Seeing a crush of customers at stores from now until Christmas will be a welcome indication that the nation's economic recovery continues to make progress.
In fact, even before many stores announced plans to start their Black Friday sales on Thanksgiving Day, there was tangible evidence that consumer confidence is growing. That played out during the summer and early fall, when Americans ran up more credit-card debt than they had a year ago.
There's additional cause for optimism in the National Retail Federation forecast that holiday sales this year will grow by 4.1 percent, which would represent a bigger expansion than was typical over the last decade.