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This Year, Itís Green Friday

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Retailers, exhale. As the 1998 Christmas season opens Friday, American consumers, armed with bulging wallets and short memories, appear to be headed for you in droves. More of them, with more dollars, than there has been in years. "Thereís been a big rebound in consumer confidence in October," says TIME senior economics reporter Bernard Baumohl. "The markets have hit record highs and people are suddenly feeling wealthy again."

All that paper money in the portfolio should keep the real stuff flowing at the mall this winter Ė and the national savings rate in negative territory for a few more months. Which will be long enough to fill the tills at the Gap, Victoriaís Secret, and as always, WalMart. Some analysts still fear for the department stores, however; the rise of the specialty store could make it an apt year for Macyís to be using those scaled-down floats. For the majority of retailers, though, this Black Friday looks to be the start of something green -- Americaís latest economic bender should last until spring.

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