All eyes will be on US retail sales today, at the start of the country’s crucial Christmas spending season in the midst of its credit crunch.

The day after Thanksgiving, known as Black Friday – because it is seen as the day when retailers will pull their figures in to the black – is usually marked with long queues and battles for discounted goods.

However, the slump in the US housing market and soaring oil prices have resulted in retailers pulling out all the stops to get the tills ringing.

Electricals retailer Best Buy and supermarket giant Wal-Mart planned to launch their Black Friday Sales at 5am.

High-end department stores such as Saks and Nordstrom are expected to fare well today. Saks – the subject of a potential bid from Icelandic group Baugur – is expected to lead the pack with a forecasted increase of 12.2 per cent in like-for-like sales this month.

However, the Federal Reserve has confirmed that US economic growth is slowing. Earlier this week, it cut its forecast for next year's economic growth to between 1.8 and 2.5 per cent, down from its forecast growth of between 2.5 and 2.75 per cent.

Consumers also seem unable or unwilling to spend, according to the Department of Commerce, which reported that retail sales rose 0.2 per cent in October, down from 0.7 per cent in September.