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.
US retail stocks have become a barometer of consumer confidence as inflation bites. The S&P 500 retail index 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 US 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.
Shares of retailers Target Corp, Macy’s Inc and Best Buy Co Inc were mixed, while the S&P consumer discretionary index rose 0.3%.
Wall street’s main indexes have rallied strongly since hitting their early October lows, with the S&P 500 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 US 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 am ET, the Dow Jones Industrial Average was up 152.42 points, or 0.45%, at 34,346.48, with shares of UnitedHealth Group Inc and Home Depot Inc providing the biggest boost.
The S&P 500 rose 3.41 points, or 0.08%, at 4,030.67, while the Nasdaq Composite slipped 36.70 points, or 0.33%, at 11,248.61.
Weighing on Nasdaq, Activision Blizzard Inc fell 4.2% on a media report that the US Federal Trade Commission was likely to file an antitrust lawsuit to block Microsoft Corp’s $69-billion takeover bid for the video game publisher.
Apple Inc slipped 1.6% after news of reduced iPhone shipments in November from a Foxconn plant in China.
US stock markets will close at 1 pm 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 lows, while the Nasdaq recorded 39 new highs and 42 new lows. (Reporting by Ankika Biswas and Shubham Batra in Bengaluru; Editing by Shounak Dasgupta)