Stocks finished this week's trading well into the green on Friday, Nov. 24, as retailers and consumers alike prepared for the busiest shopping season of the year during a shortened Black Friday trading session.
The Dow Jones Industrial Average gained 33 points, or 0.14%. The S&P 500 Index rose five points, or 0.21%, to close above 2,600 points for the first time ever and snag a new record. And the Nasdaq increased 22 points or 0.32%, also to a new closing record. Both the S&P 500 and the Nasdaq opened to record intraday highs.
Stock in the U.S. ended mixed on Wednesday after the release of minutes from the Federal Reserve's most recent meeting showed the central bank is still concerned about the pace of inflation, but remains optimistic about U.S. economic growth overall.
Early Black Friday statistics indicate retailers will have a robust day of sales. But online sales were the big headline on Friday.
Online sales tallied $640 million as of 10:00 a.m. EST on Black Friday, up an impressive 18.4% from the same time period last year, according to Adobe Analytics. Thanksgiving Day saw $2.87 billion in sales, up 18.3% year over year.
Before Thanksgiving leftovers were cold, shoppers had spent over more $1.5 billion online on Thursday, according to Adobe, which tracks online transactions at the top 100 U.S. retailers.
This year, the percentage of sales made on smartphones hit a record. As of 5 p.m. Thanksgiving Day, 46% of all traffic to retail websites was via smartphone. That's a 17% increase from Thanksgiving last year.
Retail sales for the first two weeks of the holiday shopping season are up 6% across general merchandise categories, according to market research company NPD, but much of the spending has been on things consumers want for themselves rather than what they're buying as gifts for others.
"Early season growth demonstrates the consumer's willingness to spend and spells potential for retail this holiday," said Marshal Cohen, NPD's chief industry analyst. "The challenge for retail is to harness the personal need drivers behind this early spending, convert it into a continued desire to spend on more traditional gift items throughout the season, and do so in ways that extend beyond deep discounting."
According to Sozzi, Walmart had the best initial traffic in the New York area, while Target Corp. (TGT) stores were a little quiet after initial lines trickled out. And Sears Holdings Corp. (SHLD) stores were largely empty, Sozzi found.
Sozzi also noted that "in talking to shoppers, it has become apparent that the in-store deals by retailers are bordering on terrible." Many of the promotions that have traditionally driven traffic in-store are instead being offered online.
Overall, this year is shaping up to be a very strong one for gaming. Sales of Nintendo (NTDOY) and Microsoft Corp. (MSFT) gaming consoles are expected to surge, meaning entertainment and gaming developer names such as Activision Blizzard Inc. (ATVI) and Electronic Arts Inc. (EA) could be poised for a strong close to the year.
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The SPDR S&P Retail ETF (XRT) fell 0.17% Friday after spending most of the session in the green. The fund has traded lower by more than 5% since the beginning of the year as e-commerce upends traditional retail models.
Meanwhile, crude oil prices hit a fresh two-year high Friday following the closure of the 590,000 barrel-per-day Keystone pipeline connecting Canadian oilfields with the United States last week. West Texas Intermediate crude futures for December delivery jumped higher 1.41% to $58.84 Friday. The last time crude closed above $60 was June 2016.
Investors appeared to remain optimistic that OPEC will extend production cuts when it meets on Nov. 30. In January, the group reached a deal to slash production through March 2018, but the expected continuation would push the expiry date for production cuts further out. The Energy Select Sector SPDR ETF (XLE) gained 0.3% Friday.
IHS Markit said that the PMI Composite Flash reading covering both the manufacturing and services sectors fell to 54.6 in November, from the prior reading of 55.2. A reading above 50 indicates expansion, whereas a reading below 50 indicates contraction.
New York-listed shares of Teva Pharmaceutical Industries Ltd. (TEVA) opened the day sharply higher Friday amid reports that the world's biggest generic drugmaker is getting ready to implement massive job cuts in both the United States and its home market of Israel.
Israel's Calcalist, a financial news website, reported Thursday that Teva was preparing to lay off more than 10% of its U.S.-based workers -- and as much as 25% globally -- amid slumping profits the company has previously linked to falling prices for generic drugs in key markets.
Israel's Economy Minister Eli Cohen told Reuters that the job cut numbers were "not accurate," but didn't dispute that layoffs were on the way. Teva has had a rough year, with shares tumbling more than 62% since the beginning of 2017. Teva ended up shaving its morning gains by the afternoon, closing essentially flat on Friday $13.69.
Back in July, Musk bet the people of Australia that he could build a 100MW battery in 100 days or it would be free. The South Australian government announced Friday the completion of the world's largest lithium-ion battery. In a statement, the office of state premier Jay Weatherill confirmed the battery would be energized within days, CNET reported.