Updated from 11:09 a.m. EST
Stocks on Wall Street were trading around the baseline during Friday's abbreviated trading session.
Traders were closely eyeing the retailers as shoppers flocked to stores to kick off the winter shopping season. In an annual ritual known as "
," stores attempt to lure customers, many of whom have the day off for Thanksgiving weekend, into their stores with preliminary holiday sales.
Dow Jones Industrial Average
was lately flat at 8727, and the
was losing 2.8 points at 885. The
gave back 15 points to 1517.
On Wednesday, the three major indices rallied in the face of numerous discouraging economic reports. During that session, President-elect Barack Obama named to his economic team former
Chairman Paul Volcker. The upside finish marked the fourth straight day of gains for the Dow and the S&P 500.
U.S. markets were closed on Thursday for Thanksgiving.
"Basically the Thanksgiving holiday allowed the market to hit the pause button for a little bit, which I think was much needed," said Kenneth Roberts, CFP, principal at Harbor Lights Financial in New Jersey. He said that Friday's trading will be marked by light volume as many traders take the day off.
Roberts also said that analysts will be looking for the impact of Black Friday sales on the retailers. On whether the recent gains in the major averages could be the beginning of a year-end rally, Roberts said that as unemployment takes hold, consumers are going to continue to cut back on purchases.
"This is just one of those days that you don't pay much attention to in terms of the directionality," said Christopher Orndorff, managing principal at Payden & Rygel. He said he expects consumer spending to continue to decrease in the fourth quarter. "It's going to be a very subdued Black Friday. It will also be a very subdued general shopping season."
Ahead of Friday's session, the
Royal Bank of Scotland
said the British government would take a 58% stake in the bank following tepid reception of a stock offering by the company.
has hired a real estate company to help it raise up to $257 million in sales and other deals related to its European offices and assets, according to a report by the
On the pharmaceutical front, antitrust investigators from the European Union said that
blocked generic drugs from the market, costing European patients as much as $3.87 billion.
Elsewhere among pharma firms,
faces delays for its infant lung drug Motavizumab thanks to inquiries by the Food and Drug Administration.
, meanwhile, said it has withdrawn a new-drug application with the FDA for its pain medication Cymbalta.
Although the day was light on domestic economic data, there were additional signs of trouble abroad Friday. The European Union's statistics office said that inflation in the Eurozone for November came in at 2.1%, down from 3.2% in October. The EU also said that unemployment in the region had reached 7. 7% in October, a 0.1% increase from September.
Among technology shares, billionaire investor Carl Icahn bought $66.9 million in shares of Web portal
, bringing his stake in the company up to 5.5%.
As for analyst actions, online auctioneer
caught an Argus downgrade to hold from buy.
Looking at commodities, crude oil was shedding $3.09 to $51.35 a barrel. Gold was gaining $1.20 to $812.50 an ounce.
Longer-dated U.S. Treasury securities were rising in price. The 10-year note was up 6/32, yielding 2.96%, and the 30-year was climbing 30/32, yielding 3.48%. The dollar was gaining on the euro, yen and pound.
Overseas, European exchanges, such as the FTSE in London and the DAX in Frankfurt, were trading higher. In
, Japan's Nikkei and Hong Kong's Hang Seng finished on the upside.