US stocks end short week quietly

Stocks fell on Wall Street today in thin trading, ending a shortened week quietly as the holiday shopping season began and attention turned to retailers and a steep decline in the dollar against other major currencies.

Stocks fell on Wall Street today in thin trading, ending a shortened week quietly as the holiday shopping season began and attention turned to retailers and a steep decline in the dollar against other major currencies.

The major stock indexes ended the week mixed, with only the Nasdaq composite index showing a gain.

The day after Thanksgiving – called Black Friday because by tradition it is the day when a holiday shopping surge could help boost store profits – appeared to be a busy one for retailers.

Shoppers seeking post-holiday bargains inundated stores.

Without tallies from cash register receipts, however, investors were forced to examine little more than anecdotal evidence as they tried to determine how sales for the all-important holiday season would fare.

With the stock markets closed on Thursday for Thanksgiving and many US investors taking a holiday today, Wall Street saw a quiet, shortened session. The thin trading volume typical of the post-Thanksgiving Friday can sometimes lead to erratic movements. The stock markets closed at 1pm local time, rather than 4pm.

Richard Sparks, an analyst at Schaeffer’s Investment Research, noted stocks had pulled off their lows of the session as investors pared concerns about the strength of US retail sales and the dollar, though he noted some pessimism remained. “I think those concerns are keeping some traders on the sidelines."

The Dow Jones industrial average fell 46.78, or 0.38%, to 12,280.17.

Broader stock indicators ended lower. The Standard & Poor’s 500 index was down 5.14, or 0.37%, at 1,400.95, managing to stay above the 1,400 mark. The Nasdaq was down 5.72, or 0.23%, at 2,460.26.

For the week, the Dow fell 0.51% and the S&P slipped 0.02%, while the Nasdaq gained 0.59%.

Bonds rose, with the yield on the benchmark 10-year Treasury note falling to 4.55% from 4.56% late Wednesday.

Light, sweet crude was up 66 cents at 59.24 in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange.

The dollar fell against other major currencies in thin holiday dealing. Gold prices rose.

A weakening dollar stirred concerns of inflation. Investors have been hoping a softer inflation picture would prompt the Federal Reserve to eventually lower short-term interest rates. The central bank has left rates unchanged at its last three meetings, interrupting a string of 17 straight increases that began in 2004.

Sparks sees concerns about a weaker dollar as a positive because of the run-up stocks have enjoyed in recent months. “We always want to see something out there that the market is worried about,” he said, adding that such concerns help keep stocks from getting ahead of themselves.

In corporate news, Advanced Semiconductor Engineering jumped 80 cents, or 15.2%, to $6.06 after private equity concern Carlyle Group said it is in talks to acquire the company, which tests and assembles computer chips, for $5.46bn.

Family Dollar Stores fell 42 cents to $28.56 after the discounter said it would not meet today’s late filing deadline for its financial results for the year ended August 26. The company cited an investigation into stock-option practices.

Systemax, a computer retailer and distributor, rose 2.08, or 17.2%, to 14.20 after its fiscal second-quarter profit rose more than fourfold as sales increased 8.1% and costs fell.

Wal-Mart Stores, the world’s largest retailer, fell 13 cents to 47.90, while Federated Stores, parent of Macy’s and Bloomingdale’s, rose 4 cents to 43.11. Electronics chain Best Buy was down 76 cents at 55.08, while luxury jeweller Tiffany & Co was down 2 cents at 37.32. Apple Computer rose 1.32 to 91.63.

The Russell 2000 index of smaller companies was down 0.63, or 0.08%, at 792.28.

Advancing issues outnumbered decliners by about 8 to 7 on the New York Stock Exchange, where volume was a light 518.4 million shares.

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