BOSTON (TheStreet) -- If you've been busy clicking around the Internet for holiday bargains, you probably haven't noticed that stocks are on pace to have their best Monday after Thanksgiving performance since the day of praise became federally legislated 70 years ago.
Equities rallied Monday on reports that Black Friday retail sales rose 6.6% from a year earlier. Meanwhile, European stocks jumped on progress made by European leaders to contain the mounting debt crisis. In the U.S., the Dow Jones Industrial Average climbed 2.7% while the S&P 500 jumped 3.1%. Overseas, stock markets in Germany, France and the U.K. rose as much as 5.5%.
If today's gains hold, this will be the best Monday after Thanksgiving performance for the S&P 500 since 1941, according to Bespoke Investment Group. The Thanksgiving holiday was officially designated as the fourth Thursday in November after 1941. The previous best Monday after Thanksgiving performance came in 1997 with a 2% increase, which almost matched a 2% gain in 1979.
Of course, some context is needed. Despite the breakout performance for equities, investors with a short attention span need to be reminded that last week saw the worst Thanksgiving week for stocks since 1932. While Monday's gains are impressive, it only claws back some of what was lost during a seven-day selloff. European stocks are in full rally mode as though last week's disastrous German 10-year bond auction is a distant memory.Andrew Fitzpatrick, director of investments with Hinsdale Associates in Chicago, says stocks may have gotten oversold, but it's something different to see them come roaring back all in one day. With the wild swings in the market becoming more pronounced, Fitzpatrick sympathizes with individual investors who are unsure of what to do over the last five weeks of the year. "Investors need to take a step back on a day like today and ask whether things have really changed," he says. "The answer, of course, is 'no.' There is still the Europe overhang and markets are very volatile because of that. There is a possibility of an effective stimulus in Europe that would boost the market, but it's all uncertain. We're cautioning investors to remain conservative but keep equity exposure the same." Fitzpatrick says he continues to favor U.S. stocks but he hasn't made any big directional bets over the past week or so. He slightly increased his exposure to the S&P 500, specifically dividend and large-cap value stocks. "We're being selective there. It's nothing stock-specific, but consumer staples are a value to us," he says. Fitzpatrick said he still finds Pepsi (PEP) attractive at this level, thanks to its international exposure and attractive dividend yield. For investors who want to take on more risk, he likes Amazon.com (AMZN) despite the volatility. Amazon is up 6% today on reports that Cyber Monday Internet sales will eclipse last year's total. Overall, Fitzpatrick thinks investors will be happy with a holiday gift from the stock market. He says market fundamentals are still very solid and that stocks should go higher on relief in Europe and an increase in consumer spending. "That means we could see possibly 5% to 10% upside here in the U.S. over the rest of the year," Fitzpatrick says. -- Written by Robert Holmes in Boston.
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