NEW YORK – Stocks remained virtually unchanged in thin, post-holiday trading Friday, with the Dow's modest gains fueled by retailers, as consumers shopped hard on so-called "Black Friday" — considered the start of the traditional holiday-shopping season.
The Dow Jones industrial average (search) ended up 1.92 points, or 0.02 percent, at 10,522.23. The Standard & Poor's 500 Index (search) was up 0.89 point, or 0.08 percent, at 1,182.65. The technology-laced Nasdaq Composite Index (search) was down 0.57 point, or 0.03 percent, at 2,101.97.
For the week, the Dow gained 0.6 percent, the S&P 500 rose 1.05 percent and Nasdaq was up 1.51 percent.
Many strategists and traders took the day off following Thursday's Thanksgiving holiday. Equity markets were closed on Thursday and shut early at 1 p.m. Friday. Even for a shortened session, volume was extremely light, traders said.
"It's a very lackluster day, and there's a holiday environment - activity is very low and there's no trend," said Scott Lynch, managing director of U.S. trading at CSFB. "Its a very quiet half day."
"We've got a lot of retail investors out there, low volume, and stocks are higher. It's a classic post-Thanksgiving market," said Edward Hemmelgarn, chief investment officer at Shaker Investments.
The dollar continued to cause concern after hitting a record low against the euro for a fourth day running before rebounding as traders grew nervous about the possibility of central bank intervention. Reports that the Chinese central bank had sold off some of its U.S. Treasury notes (search) due to the low dollar turned out to be wrong, boosting the dollar against the yen.
A weaker dollar can help U.S. companies, improving their offshore earnings when converted back to dollars and making them more competitive against other producers. But investors can also be reluctant to buy U.S. assets if they expect the currency to continue to weaken and reduce the value of those investments.
Investors already looked to next week for further news, hoping that consumer spending over the holidays would help revive the overall economy. The Labor Department (search) is expected to release job creation figures next Friday that Wall Street hopes will show signs of stronger job growth.
As the holiday shopping season got underway with early morning sales across the country, retail stocks edged higher. Dow component Wal-Mart Stores Inc. (WMT) lost 18 cents to $55.32, Target Corp. (TGT) added 24 cents to $52.21, Federated Department Stores Inc. (FD) was up 34 cents at $57.33 and May Department Stores Co. rose 55 cents to $30.19.
Shares of U.S. steel companies surged after Japanese automaker Nissan Motor Co. (search) said it would stop production at some of its Japanese plants due to a steel shortage. Standard & Poor's steel index was the top performing index on Friday, up 6.2 percent. Nucor Corp. (NUE) rose 5.6 percent at $54 and United States Steel Co. (X) was up nearly 7 percent, or $3.30 to $51.25.
While U.S. companies rarely ship steel to Japan, the Nissan news suggested more Japanese steel will stay in Japan and less will come to the United States, helping U.S. producers, an industry analyst said.
Chip stocks got a boost from the Semiconductor Industry Association's (search) latest sales report, which showed a 22 percent year-over-year increase in sales in October. Sales rose 1.5 percent month-to-month. Dow component Intel Corp. (INTC) lost 40 cents to $23.21 on the news, while Advanced Micro Devices Inc. (AMD) slipped 4 cents to $21.53.
Delta Air Lines Inc. (DAL) lost 6 cents to $6.92 after it said late Wednesday that it reached new agreements with its lenders and aircraft lessors, wrangling $57 million in concessions from 2005 through 2009 in exchange for 4.4 million shares of Delta stock.
Oracle Corp. (ORCL) said it will nominate four people to the board of PeopleSoft Inc., part of its bid to acquire the rival software company that will likely trigger a proxy battle. Oracle slipped 13 cents to $12.66, while PeopleSoft was up 2 cents at $23.54.
Taser International Inc. (TASR) skidded $2.96 to $47.55 after an Air Force laboratory that conducted tests on the company's non-lethal stun weapons disagreed with the company that the tasers were safe, and that more studies were needed to asses their risks.
Trading volume was 504 million shares on the New York Stock Exchange and about 672 million on Nasdaq. Advancers outnumbered decliners 3 to 2 on the NYSE and 4 to 3 on the Nasdaq.
The Russell 2000 index of smaller companies was up 1.66, or 0.26 percent, at 631.16.
Overseas, Japan's Nikkei stock average fell 0.61 percent. In Europe, Britain's FTSE 100 was down 0.25 percent, France's CAC-40 dropped 0.41 percent, and Germany's DAX index lost 0.15 percent.
Reuters and the Associated Press contributed to this report.