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The mother of all CE sales has seen consumers lining up outside stores. Blu-ray and HD DVD players were sub $100 in some stores and some stores were selling 42″ LCD HD TVs for as low as $899. 22″ LCD TVs with HD tuner were as low as $199. Sony Vaio notebooks as low as $399.

Eager shoppers stormed malls and stores across the USA on Friday to snap up the early-bird specials that mark “Black Friday,” the first official day of the U.S. holiday shopping season.

While shoppers were looking for giveaways and discounts, investors were watching for signs of consumer strength or weakness.

Blu-ray and HD DVD players were sub $100 in some stores and some stores were selling 42″ LCD HD TVs for as low as $899. 22″ LCD TVs with HD tuner were as low as $199. Sony Vaio notebooks as low as $399.

Most retailers and analysts have expressed cautious outlooks as consumers pull back amid a slumping U.S. housing market, a credit crunch, and rising food and fuel costs.

Wal-Mart Stores the world’s largest retailer, threw open its doors at 5 a.m., offering such specials as a Polaroid 42-inch LCD HDTV for $798 and a $79.87 Sony digital camera. J.C. Penney which opened at 4 a.m., an hour earlier than last year, served up such deals as a leather massage recliner for $298.88 after a $50 mail- in rebate. The original price was $799. Other deals include 50% off toys and board games.

 

In a scene replayed again and again at stores nationwide, about 200 people stood in line outside a Target at 5 a.m., an hour before the store was to open.

Tracy Jenkinson, 34 years old, arrived just after 3 a.m. to take the first spot in line. She planned to buy a $199, 19-inch LCD television for his daughters.

“It’s kind of crazy if you’re not here to get a particular thing,” Jenkinson said.

At a nearby Wal-Mart, Linda Ballew, 56, arrived at 4:30 a.m. to shop for her six grandchildren, and others.

She pushed and pulled two shopping carts containing a 42-inch LCD television, five hand mixers for girlfriends and more than 50 DVDs, some for just $2, as stocking stuffers for the grandchildren.

“It’s just exciting, it’s wonderful to get out because it just puts you in the Christmas spirit,” said Ballew of her holiday tradition.

In Manhattan, Best Buy drew crowds for such early-morning bargains as a Sony laptop computer for $399.99, reduced from $749.99, and a GPS device from TomTom, which was priced at $119.99, from $249.99.

 

“If they were selling it, we were buying it,” Tom Shea, 23, said as he surveyed his purchases at a midtown Manhattan Best Buy store. He said he, some friends and a cousin were the first through the doors when the store opened at 4 a.m.

Shea, of Brooklyn, and two friends spent a total of about $2,500 on two laptop computers, an Xbox game console, a vacuum and several other items. They estimated they had saved about $1,500 – after waiting for 35 hours outside the Fifth Avenue store to make sure they were first in line, he said.

Shoppers from overseas were revelling in exchange rates that made discounts even deeper.

The dollar hit record lows against the euro Friday and reached their lowest point in 12 years against the yen.

“Everything is half price for us,” Ashlee Clifford said, smiling, as she shopped at a Circuit City in Manhattan. Clifford lives in Northern Ireland.

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