The benchmark S&P 500 edged higher on Friday, with focus on retailers as Black Friday sales kicked off against the backdrop of stubbornly high inflation and cooling economic growth.
Shoppers were expected to turn out in record numbers to shop for Black Friday deals, but with inclement weather, thin crowds were seen outside stores on what has historically been the busiest shopping day of the year.
U.S. retail stocks have become a barometer of consumer confidence as inflation bites. The S&P 500 retail index (.SPXRT) slipped 0.1% on Friday, bringing its year-to-date losses to a little over 30%, while the S&P 500 is down 15% so far this year.
“We’re going have a higher-than-expected Black Friday sales number. The reason why I think so is the strength of U.S. consumers is still being far too discounted with full employment and large cash savings,” said Phil Blancato, chief executive of Ladenburg Thalmann Asset Management in New York.
Wall street’s main indexes have rallied strongly since hitting their early October lows, with the S&P 500 (.SPX) up more than 15% on a boost from a better-than-expected earnings season and more recently on hopes of less aggressive interest rates hikes by the U.S. Federal Reserve.
Expectations are now of a 63.5% chance that the Fed will increase its key benchmark rate by 50 basis points in December, with the rates seen peaking in June 2023.
At 10:10 a.m. ET, the Dow Jones Industrial Average (.DJI) was up 152.42 points, or 0.45%, at 34,346.48, with shares of UnitedHealth Group Inc (UNH.N) and Home Depot Inc (HD.N) providing the biggest boost.
Weighing on Nasdaq, Activision Blizzard Inc (ATVI.O) fell 4.2% on a media report that the U.S. Federal Trade Commission was likely to file an antitrust lawsuit to block Microsoft Corp’s (MSFT.O) $69-billion takeover bid for the video game publisher.
U.S. stock markets will close at 1 p.m. ET on Friday, after being closed on Thursday for Thanksgiving.
Advancing issues outnumbered decliners for a 1.84-to-1 ratio on the NYSE and a 1.32-to-1 ratio on the Nasdaq.
The S&P index recorded 16 new 52-week highs and no new low, while the Nasdaq recorded 39 new highs and 42 new lows.