Wall Street gains, Dow tops 24,000 as tax bill gains steam

NEW YORK (Reuters) – The S&P closed at a record high and the Dow Jones Industrial Average broke above the 24,000 mark for the first time on Thursday as investors gained confidence that the Republican party’s push for a U.S. tax overhaul would succeed.

Republican Senator John McCain’s decision to back the tax bill provided a new jolt of momentum for the legislation. McCain had helped defeat Republicans’ efforts to repeal Obamacare, and a “yes” vote by him on the tax measure was considered crucial. He said the tax bill would boost the economy, although it is “far from perfect.”

“We have seen ‘no’ votes flipping to the ‘yes’ column, so that makes the passage of the bill more certain but also moves it up on the calendar,” said Bucky Hellwig, senior vice president at BB&T Wealth Management in Birmingham, Alabama. “The rush is on right now to get that cranked out, and investors are saying we’re ready to buy into that.”

The Senate was due to begin voting on amendments to the bill later on Thursday, with a final vote late in the evening or early Friday.

The blue-chip Dow index has crossed four 1,000-point milestones this year on the back of strong corporate earnings, robust economic data and hopes for corporate tax cuts. The tax bill would cut the corporate tax rate to 20 percent from 35 percent.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average .DJI rose 331.67 points, or 1.39 percent, to 24,272.35, the S&P 500 .SPX gained 21.51 points, or 0.82 percent, to 2,647.58, and the Nasdaq Composite .IXIC added 49.63 points, or 0.73 percent, to 6,873.97.

Trading volume was unusually high.

The Russell 2000 , of smaller companies, closed up 0.12 percent, hitting its third record close in a row. However, it lagged the large cap index gains, suggesting that expectations for tax cuts were not fully priced in.

“We haven’t seen a sustained rally in small caps, and we still don’t know the details” of the tax bill, Hellwig said. “But it’s moved forward, which is significant in terms of the planning for 2018.”

The market has priced in only a 20 percent to 40 percent probability of tax cuts, according to UBS strategists.

Traders work on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange, (NYSE) as a screen displays the Dow Jones Industrial Average as it crosses 24,000, in New York, U.S., November 30, 2017. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid

A reduction in the corporate tax rate to 25 percent could boost S&P 500 earnings by 6.5 percent, UBS U.S. equity strategist Keith Parker estimated.

The S&P and the Dow have registered eight straight months of gains, while the Nasdaq has posted five consecutive months of increases.

On Wednesday, the Nasdaq posted its biggest one-day drop in more than three months as investors sold technology stocks. However, the S&P technology sector .SPLRCT erased some of its losses on Thursday to end up almost 1 percent.

Slideshow (6 Images)

The S&P energy index .SPNY was the strongest sector, rising 1.55 percent after OPEC agreed to extend oil production cuts to the end of 2018.

Industrials .SPLRCI rose 1.53 percent, helped by an almost 2 percent jump in transportation stocks .DJT, which would get a big boost from corporate tax cuts.

The S&P Financials sector .SPSY pared earlier gains to end up 0.6 percent, boosted by expectations that bank tax cuts would be passed on to investors in the form of share buybacks.

Data that pointed to a sustained increase in underlying price pressures and a drop in first-time applications for unemployment benefits last week also helped sentiment.

About 9 billion shares changed hands on U.S. exchanges in the busiest trading day since June 23. This compares with the 6.56 billion average for the last 20 sessions.

Advancing issues outnumbered declining ones on the NYSE by a 1.41-to-1 ratio; on Nasdaq, a 1.13-to-1 ratio favored advancers.

The S&P 500 posted 119 new 52-week highs and no new lows; the Nasdaq Composite recorded 184 new highs and 23 new lows.

Additional reporting by Caroline Valetkevitch, April Joyner and Lewis Krauskopf in New York, Sruthi Shankar and Rama Venkat Raman in Bengaluru; Editing by Nick Zieminski and Leslie Adler

Our Standards:The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

Nasdaq falters as investors flee tech for banks

(Reuters) – The Nasdaq posted its biggest one-day drop in more than three months on Wednesday as investors fled high-flying technology stocks and shifted to banks and other pockets of the market that could benefit from improving economic conditions, lower regulations and taxes, and higher interest rates.

A view of the exterior of the Nasdaq market site in the Manhattan borough of New York City, U.S., October 24, 2016. REUTERS/Shannon Stapleton

Gains in financial, industrial and healthcare stocks boosted the Dow industrials, giving the blue-chip index another record closing high, and they helped the benchmark S&P 500 finish only slightly lower.

The S&P tech sector .SPLRCT, which has propelled the market’s record-setting rally this year, fell 2.6 percent for its biggest daily decline in more than five months.

Shares of Amazon (AMZN.O), Apple (AAPL.O), Google parent Alphabet (GOOGL.O) and Facebook (FB.O) fell between 2 percent and 4 percent. Among other high fliers this year, Netflix (NFLX.O) sank 5.5 percent and the Philadelphia semiconductor index .SOX dropped 4.4 percent.

Financials .SPSY rose 1.8 percent, adding to Tuesday’s gains and resulting in their biggest two-day rise since just after the 2016 U.S. election of President Donald Trump. JP Morgan (JPM.N) rose 2.3 percent and Wells Fargo (WFC.N) climbed 2.0 percent.

The industrial sector .SPLRCI rose 0.9 percent, led by transportation stocks such as Southwest Airlines (LUV.N), railroad Union Pacific (UNP.N) and package delivery company UPS (UPS.N).

“We are certainly seeing a change in leadership at least for today in that we are taking profits from technology and redistributing those profits to areas that will benefit from lower taxes, less regulation, higher interest rates and kind of later stages of the economic cycle,” said Michael Arone, chief investment strategist at State Street Global Advisors in Boston.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average .DJI rose 103.97 points, or 0.44 percent, to 23,940.68, the S&P 500 .SPX lost 0.97 points, or 0.04 percent, to 2,626.07 and the Nasdaq Composite .IXIC dropped 88.02 points, or 1.27 percent, to 6,824.34.

Traders work on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) in New York, U.S., November 28, 2017. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid

While Amazon dropped, shares of other retailers posted sharp gains, including Target (TGT.N) up 8.9 percent and Macy’s (M.N) up 8.2 percent, as holiday shopping season has started in earnest over the past week.

“There may be a little bit of a thought that Amazon isn’t going to kill every retailer out there,” said Paul Nolte, portfolio manager at Kingsview Asset Management in Chicago.

“We’re seeing some transportation stocks doing better in expectation that maybe this is going to be a pretty good holiday season with consumer confidence doing well and wage growth picking up a little bit,” Nolte said.

Traders work on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) in New York, U.S., November 28, 2017. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid

Investors are keenly focused on tax-reform legislation in Congress, with hopes that a corporate tax cut would further fuel the record-setting rally in equities.

Congressional Republicans scrambled to reformulate their bill to satisfy lawmakers worried about how much it would expand the federal deficit, as the measure moved toward a U.S. Senate floor vote later this week.

In the latest batch of encouraging economic data, the U.S. economy grew faster than initially thought in the third quarter, notching its quickest pace in three years.

Outgoing Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen told Congressional leaders the U.S. economy has gathered steam this year and will warrant continued interest rate increases amid a strengthened global recovery

It was Yellen’s final scheduled testimony on Capitol Hill. Her nominated replacement, Jerome Powell, on Tuesday had defended plans to potentially lighten regulation of the financial sector.

In corporate news, Chipotle Mexican Grill (CMG.N) shares rose 5.6 percent after the restaurant chain said it was seeking a turnaround expert to lead the company.

Additional reporting by Sruthi Shankar and Rama Venkat Raman in Bengaluru; editing by Sriraj Kalluvila and Nick Zieminski

Our Standards:The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

Banks lead Wall Street to highs, helped by data, Powell comments

(Reuters) – Wall Street hit record highs on Tuesday led by bank stocks, as investors seized on strong consumer confidence data and comments from President Donald Trump’s nominee to lead the Federal Reserve.

Traders work on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange shortly after the opening bell in New York, U.S., November 15, 2017. REUTERS/Lucas Jackson

But major indexes briefly pulled back from session highs after news that North Korea had fired a missile.

Jerome Powell, nominated to replace Janet Yellen as Fed chair, defended the need to potentially lighten regulation on the financial sector in testimony before a Senate committee.

Powell overall presented himself as an extension of the Fed policies set under Yellen and her predecessor Ben Bernanke, confirming market expectations that he offered stability despite the change in Fed leadership.

Data showed that U.S consumer confidence surged to a near 17-year high in November, driven by a robust labor market, while house prices rose sharply in September in the latest encouraging reports about the U.S. economy.

“Some of the data that we got today kind of confirms this goldilocks environment that we have,” said Anthony Saglimbene, global market strategist at Ameriprise in Troy, Michigan.

“Unemployment and interest rates are low, confidence and asset prices are high.”

The Dow Jones Industrial Average .DJI rose 188.14 points, or 0.8 percent, to 23,768.92, the S&P 500 .SPX gained 21 points, or 0.81 percent, to 2,622.42 and the Nasdaq Composite .IXIC added 25.08 points, or 0.36 percent, to 6,903.60.

Financials .SPSY were the best-performing sector, rising 1.8 percent, and were on pace for their biggest daily gains in more than five months.

JP Morgan (JPM.N) rose 3.1 percent and Bank of America (BAC.N) gained 3.2 percent.

“When you look at the financials as a group, they probably have a couple of tailwinds – in terms of how he (Powell) thinks about regulation and interest rates and certainly the progress being made so far on tax reform,” said Art Hogan, chief market strategist at B. Riley FBR in Boston.

Wall Street is closely watching progress on the Republicans’ tax-reform efforts, with hopes that corporate tax cuts will further fuel the record-setting rally for equities.

Trump’s push for tax cuts hit new turbulence, however, with Democrats abruptly pulling out of a planned White House meeting with him after he sent a tweet attacking them, while some Senate Republicans were demanding changes to the tax bill.

North Korea fired a ballistic missile, two U.S. government sources said, a week after Trump put North Korea back on a U.S. list of countries that it says support terrorism.

Investors have pointed to geopolitical concerns, particularly involving North Korea, as a potential catalyst for a significant market selloff.

In corporate news, Buffalo Wild Wings (BWLD.O) shares rose 6.3 percent after Roark Capital Group said it would buy the chicken wing restaurant chain.

Advancing issues outnumbered declining ones on the NYSE by a 1.51-to-1 ratio; on Nasdaq, a 1.34-to-1 ratio favored advancers.

Additional eporting by Sruthi Shankar and Rama Venkat Raman in Bengaluru; Editing by Sriraj Kalluvila and Nick Zieminski

Our Standards:The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

Wall Street hovers at records; energy losses counter Amazon strength

(Reuters) – Wall Street’s major indexes were little changed on Monday after retreating from record highs set during the session as gains for Amazon were countered by losses in shares of chipmakers and energy companies.

Traders work on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) in New York, U.S., November 20, 2017. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid

Investors also digested strong economic data, which showed sales of new U.S. single-family homes unexpectedly rose in October to hit a 10-year high amid robust demand across the country.

Prospects for corporate tax cuts have also occupied market watchers hoping such reforms would further fuel the record-setting run for equities.

President Donald Trump was to meet with Senate Republican tax writers to scope out an end-game strategy for sweeping tax legislation, ahead of a crucial vote on the Senate floor that could come as early as Thursday.

“You have got this continuous background of tax reform,” said Peter Andersen, chief investment officer with Fiduciary Trust Company in Boston.

”But underlying that, if you just take your eyes off that for a moment and look at the other fundamentals of the economy and the world economy, things look very positive,” Andersen said.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average .DJI rose 21.56 points, or 0.09 percent, to 23,579.55, the S&P 500 .SPX lost 0.71 points, or 0.03 percent, to 2,601.71 and the Nasdaq Composite .IXIC dropped 10.59 points, or 0.15 percent, to 6,878.57.

Shares of online retailer Amazon (AMZN.O) rose 1.1 percent, giving the biggest boost to the S&P 500 and the Nasdaq. Record online sales were seen on Black Friday and Thanksgiving last week, when shoppers bagged deep discounts and bought more on their mobile devices.

Amazon shares led the S&P 500 retailing index .SPXRT up 0.7 percent.

Energy .SPNY was the worst-performing major sector, falling 1.0 percent. Oil prices fell, with U.S. crude easing from two-year highs on prospects of higher supply and uncertainty about Russia’s resolve to join in extending output cuts ahead of this week’s OPEC meeting.

Shares of oil majors Chevron (CVX.N) and Exxon (XOM.N) fell 0.9 percent and 0.4 percent, respectively.

Among chip stocks, Micron Technology (MU.O) declined 3.4 percent and Nvidia (NVDA.O) slipped 1.1 percent, with the Philadelphia semiconductor index .SOX off 1.0 percent.

The declines followed a 5 percent drop in shares of Samsung Electronics (005930.KS) in Asian trading after Morgan Stanley downgraded the stock, citing concerns that a boom in memory chips is likely to peak soon.

Shares of hard drive maker Western Digital (WDC.O) dropped 7.0 percent after a downgrade.

In merger news, Time (TIME.N) rose 9.5 percent after media company Meredith (MDP.N) said it would buy the magazine publisher. Meredith shares surged 11.0 percent.

Barracuda Networks (CUDA.N) shares jumped 16.5 percent after the data security company agreed to be bought by private equity firm Thoma Bravo LLC.

Declining issues outnumbered advancing ones on the NYSE by a 1.38-to-1 ratio; on Nasdaq, a 1.35-to-1 ratio favored decliners.

Additional eporting by Sruthi Shankar and Rama Venkat Raman in Bengaluru; Editing by Sriraj Kalluvila and Cynthia Osterman

Our Standards:The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

Black Friday, Thanksgiving online sales climb to record high

CHICAGO (Reuters) – Black Friday and Thanksgiving online sales in the United States surged to record highs as shoppers bagged deep discounts and bought more on their mobile devices, heralding a promising start to the key holiday season, according to retail analytics firms.

Customers push their shopping carts after making a purchase at Target in Chicago, Illinois. REUTERS/Kamil Krzaczynski

U.S. retailers raked in a record $7.9 billion in online sales on Black Friday and Thanksgiving, up 17.9 percent from a year ago, according to Adobe Analytics, which measures transactions at the largest 100 U.S. web retailers, on Saturday.

Adobe said Cyber Monday is expected to drive $6.6 billion in internet sales, which would make it the largest U.S. online shopping day in history.

In the run-up to the holiday weekend, traditional retailers invested heavily in improving their websites and bulking up delivery options, preempting a decline in visits to brick-and-mortar stores. Several chains tightened store inventories as well, to ward off any post-holiday liquidation that would weigh on profits.

TVs, laptops, toys and gaming consoles – particularly the PlayStation 4 – were among the most heavily discounted and the biggest sellers, according to retail analysts and consultants.

Commerce marketing firm Criteo said 40 percent of Black Friday online purchases were made on mobile phones, up from 29 percent last year.

No brick-and-mortar sales data for Thanksgiving or Black Friday was immediately available, but Reuters reporters and industry analysts noted anecdotal signs of muted activity – fewer cars in mall parking lots, shoppers leaving stores without purchases in hand.

People shop for items in Macy’s Herald Square in Manhattan, New York. REUTERS/Andrew Kelly

Stores offered heavy discounts, creative gimmicks and free gifts to draw bargain hunters out of their homes, but some shoppers said they were just browsing the merchandise, reserving their cash for internet purchases. There was little evidence of the delirious shopper frenzy customary of Black Fridays from past years.

However, retail research firm ShopperTrak said store traffic fell less than 1 percent on Black Friday, bucking industry predictions of a sharper decline.

A cashier handles money in Macy’s Herald Square in Manhattan, New York. REUTERS/Andrew Kelly

“There has been a significant amount of debate surrounding the shifting importance of brick-and-mortar retail,” Brian Field, ShopperTrak’s senior director of advisory services, said.

“The fact that shopper visits remained intact on Black Friday illustrates that physical retail is still highly relevant and when done right, it is profitable.”

The National Retail Federation (NRF), which had predicted strong holiday sales helped by rising consumer confidence, said on Friday that fair weather across much of the nation had also helped draw shoppers into stores.

The NRF, whose overall industry sales data is closely watched each year, is scheduled to release Thanksgiving, Black Friday and Cyber Monday sales numbers on Tuesday.

U.S. consumer confidence has been strengthening over this past year, due to a labor market that is churning out jobs, rising home prices and stock markets that are hovering at record highs.

Reporting by Richa NaiduEditing by Marguerita Choy

Our Standards:The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

Shoppers browse stores, buy online as Black Friday deals beckon

CHICAGO/NEW YORK (Reuters) – U.S. stores offered deep discounts, entertainment and free gifts to lure bargain hunters on Black Friday, the traditional start of the holiday retail season, but some shoppers said they were just browsing the merchandise, reserving their cash for internet purchases.

Still, a sharp rise in online sales brightened the overall outlook for those traditional retailers that have expanded beyond brick-and-mortar outlets, sending their shares higher in day-after-Thanksgiving trading. Stores also had carefully managed inventory, seeking to ward off any post-holiday liquidation that would weigh on profits.

There was little evidence of the delirious shopper frenzy customary of Black Fridays from past years, even as some stores appeared to be getting creative with gimmicks besides heavy discounts to draw in customers.

No actual data for Friday’s brick-and-mortar business was immediately available.

Despite anecdotal signs of muted in-store sales – fewer cars in mall parking lots, shoppers leaving stores without purchases in hand – consumers are still expected to spend more overall this holiday season than last, analysts and industry executives said.

Black Friday online sales totaled at least $3.54 billion by 8 p.m. EST (0100 Saturday GMT), up 15.6 percent from a year ago, according to Adobe Analytics, which measures transactions at the largest 100 U.S. web retailers. On Thanksgiving Day, U.S. shoppers spent more than $2.87 billion online.

Adobe projected internet sales would still reach a record $5 billion by the end of the night, with online retailers forecast to rake in an additional $6.6 billion on Cyber Monday.

Indeed, some chains struggled to keep up, with brief online outages experienced by Lowe‘s, H&M and the Gap, among others, according to website performance monitors.

Macy’s Inc customers in several states, including Texas, Arizona and Illinois, took to social media to complain about the retailer’s credit card processing system. The company acknowledged that processing was taking longer than usual in its stores and said it was working on the problem.

The hiccups dragged Macy’s shares 0.6 percent lower in extended trading. They had ended the regular session up 2.1 percent, boosted by comments from Chief Executive Jeff Gennette, who told CNBC that Macy’s was better off this year than last, had robust online demand and was in a good place for holiday promotions.

Macy’s and J.C. Penney Co Inc did a better job of ordering and controlling inventory this time, according to Burt Flickinger, managing director of Strategic Resources Group, a consultancy with seven researchers out in the field.

“The turnout this morning has been relatively slow, but it is still the best we have seen in three years,” Flickinger said, citing improving consumer confidence, a strong job market and healthy housing prices.

Fair weather across much of the nation also was factor, said National Retail Federation President Matthew Shay.

Some shoppers were enticed by the promise of spectacle, while others felt the pull of nostalgia.

“It’s like a hangout, it’s an experience,” said Jonathan Lin, 17. “All my friends are back from college and we got together.”

”There’s something nostalgic about being at the stores this early,” Jennifer Stasiak said at Chicago’s popular Oakbrook Center.

Not everyone found the Black Friday magic irresistible.

A Black Friday sale sign is displayed outside a makeup store at Roosevelt Field shopping mall in Garden City, New York, U.S., November 24, 2017. REUTERS/Shannon Stapleton

“I avoid the store, too many crowds,” said Elana Silverstein, 32, a school counselor enjoying a warm, sunny day at a Los Angeles park. Instead, Silverstein said, she bought several personal items on sale Thursday night through the online marketplace Groupon.

Major retailers generally traded higher on Wall Street. J.C. Penney climbed 0.6 percent and Wal-Mart Stores Inc edged upward. Amazon.com Inc closed up 2.6 percent at a record high.

Target Corp did not fare as well, with analysts noting that it closed its stores for several hours overnight while many rivals kept their doors open. Its shares fell 2.8 percent.

NOT WHAT IT USED TO BE

The period between the U.S. Thanksgiving holiday and Christmas can make or a break a retailer, accounting for as much as 40 percent of annual revenue and leading many businesses to go the extra mile to stoke shoppers’ interest.

Godiva gave out free chocolates, while Sephora offered face masks and perfumes. Dancers entertained Bergdorf Goodman shoppers, according to the New York Post.

Slideshow (8 Images)

Many chains, including Wal-Mart, Target, Macy’s and J.C. Penney, opened stores on Thursday evening and most were offering extended deals online. Some started offering in-store deals earlier this week.

Macy’s said some 16,000 shoppers were lined up outside its flagship Herald Square store in Manhattan when doors opened at 5 p.m. on Thursday for its Black Friday eve sale.

The deepest discounts included more than $200 off some Best Buy TVs; all bras across Victoria’s Secret Pink stores priced at $25; half-priced video games at Target; and $50 off PlayStation 4 Pro gaming consoles at Wal-Mart.

Here and there were signs of the pandemonium for which Black Friday was long known.

A confrontation between two men in the parking lot of Willowbrook Mall in Houston left one shot and the other stabbed, though the origins of the clash and whether it was shopping-related was not immediately known, police said.

A false report of gunfire prompted shoppers to flee the Westland Mall in Hialeah, Florida. Stores reopened less than an hour later, a mall security supervisor told Reuters by phone.

Near Birmingham, Alabama, police broke up a fight on Thursday night between two women who may have been arguing over a sale item at the Riverchase Galleria, mall officials said.

The growing online shopping trend, led by Amazon, has forced the toy chain Toys R Us and apparel retailers True Religion, the Limited, Rue 21 and Payless Shoe Source to file for bankruptcy this year.

Still, traditional retailers earn the bulk of their revenue from in-store buys. Shoppers in brick-and-mortar stores can also be easier to tempt with impulse or add-on purchases than online browsers.

Garden State Plaza in Paramus, New Jersey, was crowded but not chaotic. Shoppers came for deals with nothing specific in mind. Many enjoyed the experience of trying on clothes rather than shopping online.

A Macy’s employee there said it was less busy on Friday because the store had been open, and packed, on Thursday.

“They’re all online,” said Sarah Jones, 42, an employee at Roosevelt Field Mall on Long Island. “I’ve worked in retail my whole life, trust me.”

Reporting by Nandita Bose in New York and Richa Naidu in Chicago, additional reporting by Stephanie Brumsey in New York, Renita Young and Jenna Zucker in New Jersey, Nate Raymond in Boston, Bryan Sims in Houston, Jon Herskovitz in Austin and Alex Dobuzinskis in Los Angeles; Writing by Nick Zieminski and Steve Gorman; Editing by Bill Rigby, Meredith Mazzilli and Lisa Shumaker

Our Standards:The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

Black Friday draws early shoppers, but real frenzy is online

CHICAGO/NEW YORK (Reuters) – Turnout at U.S. retailers was relatively subdued on Black Friday, with many shoppers flocking to stores to eye items in person and enjoy the festive atmosphere while waiting to do their actual bargain hunting online.

A Black Friday sale sign is displayed outside a makeup store at Roosevelt Field shopping mall in Garden City, New York, U.S., November 24, 2017. REUTERS/Shannon Stapleton

There were few signs of the over-the-top frenzy that had been a hallmark of the start to the U.S. shopping season in years past, and some stores appeared to be getting creative with gimmicks beyond heavy discounts to lure shoppers through their doors.

The day after Thanksgiving is traditionally when retailers offer “doorbuster” deals attracting bargain hunters. Many department and big-box stores have said they will compete fiercely on price this quarter while keeping inventory lean.

Tricia Welch, 36, a customer service executive at a bank, stood in line for about an hour before getting into a Target Corp store in Manhattan.

“There are definitely more discounts available through the year now than say four to five years ago … we only buy electronics or appliances on Black Friday.”

Miguel Flores, 43, an overnight security guard, visited the store after his shift ended.

“I mostly shop online but decided to drop in because I haven’t been to a store in a long time,” Flores said. “I bought some video games for my nephew a few days ago. The deals were pretty good then, too. In fact I was just looking at some of them today and the deals are similar.”

Tenesha Robertson, 43, a loader at UPS, exited Macy’s in Jersey City’s Newport Centre Mall with her mother, daughter and several large bags in tow. They were headed to drop shopping items off at Robertson’s car before buying more at the mall.

“We go to Macy’s every year,” she said. The discounts are about the same, but we like to come just to be here for the family time.”

But online demand may help make up for lackluster store traffic, and even the subdued in-store activity this year marked an improvement over recent years.

Macy’s Inc Chief Executive Jeff Gennette told CNBC on Friday that the retailer was better off this year than last, had robust online demand and was in a good place for holiday promotions, sending the retailer’s shares up more than 4 percent in early trading.

JC Penney Co climbed 1.8 percent, while Target Corp and Wal-Mart Stores Inc edged higher.

The period between the U.S. Thanksgiving holiday and Christmas can make or a break a retailer, accounting for as much as 40 percent of total revenue for the year.

“The turnout this morning has been relatively slow but it is still the best we have seen in three years. We expect it to pick up as the day progresses,” said Burt Flickinger, managing director, Strategic Resources Group. He cited improving consumer confidence, a strong job market, and healthy housing prices.

More people picked up deals online and the traditional rush was split by stores opening the night before. Godiva gave out free chocolates, Sephora offered face masks and perfumes and dancers entertained Bergdorf Goodman shoppers, according to the New York Post.

The deepest Black Friday discounts included more than $200 off some BestBuy TVs, all bras across Victoria’s Secret Pink stores sold for $25, half-price video games at Target, and $50 off PlayStation 4 Pro gaming consoles at Walmart.

Women shop at a Macy’s department store in Roosevelt Field shopping mall in Garden City, New York, U.S., November 24, 2017. REUTERS/Shannon Stapleton

The challenge for retailers will be to convert early spending into a desire to spend throughout the season and to go beyond deep discounts, NPD Group Chief Industry Analyst Marshal Cohen said in a note.

There were some signs, however, on Thursday night of the shopping frenzy that Black Friday is traditionally known for.

The Riverchase Galleria in Hoover, Alabama, outside Birmingham, said police had to be called to break up a fight at about 11:30 p.m. on Thursday between two women who might have been trying to get the same sale item in a store.

Mike White, general manager of the mall, said there were reports of two other scuffles in the mall, Alabama’s biggest, and the mall decided to shut about 15 minutes early.

“There were just a lot of people shopping last night. We were full all night long.”

Slideshow (7 Images)

NOT WHAT IT USED TO BE

Enticing shoppers with Black Friday deals is especially important for brick-and-mortar retailers given the continued switch to online shopping, led by Amazon.com Inc, which has forced chains such as Toys R Us, apparel retailers True Religion, The Limited, Rue 21 and off-price retailer Payless Shoe Source to file for bankruptcy this year.

Amazon began touting its sales for Cyber Monday, one of the biggest days for online shopping, on Friday and said shoppers using its digital assistant Alexa could score deals as early as Sunday.

Wal-Mart, Target, Macy‘s, JC Penney and other retailers opened their stores on Thursday evening and most have been offering extended deals online starting as early as October. Some started offering in-store deals earlier this week.

Garden State Plaza in Paramus, New Jersey, was crowded but not chaotic. Shoppers came for deals with nothing specific in mind. Those who came enjoyed the experience of trying on clothes rather than shopping online.

“It looks a little slower this year,” Build-A-Bear employee Marissa Trujillo said.

“Black Friday isn’t what it used to be because stores are extending their sales into the weekend and you can shop online,” said Unmesh Patel, 30, a project manager. “I also come for the rush even though it lessens every year.”

A Macy’s employee at the mall said it was less busy on Friday because the store had been open, and packed, on Thursday.

U.S. shoppers had spent more than $1.52 billion online by Thanksgiving evening, a 16.8 percent year-over-year increase in online spending, by 5 p.m. (2200 GMT) on Thanksgiving, according to Adobe Analytics, which tracked 80 percent of online transactions at the top 100 U.S. retailers.

“They’re all online,” said Sarah Jones, 42, an employee at Roosevelt Field Mall on Long Island. “Right now they’re at toy stores and electronic stores. They’ll trickle in a little later and we’ll be waiting. I’ve worked in retail my whole life, trust me.”

(This version of the story was refiled to add dropped word in first paragraph)

Reporting by Nandita Bose and Richa Naidu, additional reporting by Renita Young, Stephanie Brumsey and Jenna Zucker; Writing by Nick Zieminski; Editing by Bill Rigby and Meredith Mazzilli

Our Standards:The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

China stocks suffer mauling, Fed leaves dollar in a daze

LONDON (Reuters) – The dollar was on the defensive Thursday, a day after its worst drubbing in five months, as the biggest slump in Chinese stocks in almost two years took the shine off another record high in a global equities bull run.

The near 3 percent drop in China reflected its recent bond markets worries, adding to a subdued mood in Europe where, with trading constrained by the Thanksgiving holiday in the United States, the main bourses opened in the red for the 10th day in the last 13.

Surveys covering Europe’s services and manufacturing industries outshone the most optimistic forecasts in Reuters polls, with factories having the second-best month in the index’s history.

That helped some European stock markets regain lost ground, and by early afternoon the pan-European STOXX 600 was up 0.1 percent after opening 0.3 percent lower.

The MSCI world equity index .MIWD00000PUS, which tracks shares in 47 countries, was up 0.1 percent, having earlier touched a record high. Britain’s FTSE 100 .FTSE was down 0.2 percent, trimming opening losses of 0.5 percent. One of the index’s heavyweight utilities Centrica (CNA.L) crashed over 16 percent in what could be is biggest daily drop ever.

Moves were expected to be minor in light of Thanksgiving. Japanese markets had also been closed, though there was no shortage of action in Asia.

The dollar’s rout took it as low as 111.07 yen JPY= after minutes of the Federal Reserve’s last meeting showed many participants were concerned inflation would stay below the bank’s 2 percent target for longer than expected.

That view echoed comments from Chair Janet Yellen and led markets to pare back pricing for more rate hikes next year.

The dollar clawed back to 111.14 yen in Europe but the overnight move was its largest single-day fall against the Japanese currency since May.

“The dollar has had a rough ride in the aftermath of the Fed minutes,” said CIBC’s head of currency strategy Jeremy Stretch, who added there was also a growing sense among analysts that the Bank of Japan could start scaling back its stimulus.

Bonds had marked a comeback on the speculation the Fed might not tighten U.S. policy as aggressively as previously thought.

While a move in December to between 1.25 and 1.5 percent is still almost fully priced in, Fed fund futures <0#FF:> rallied to show rates at just 1.75 percent by the end of next year.

An investor looks at an electronic board showing stock information at a brokerage house in Beijing, China, June 24, 2016. REUTERS/Jason Lee

Borrowing costs in the euro area also crept up with minutes from the European Central Bank’s October meeting, at which monthly asset purchases were extended well into 2018 albeit at a reduced pace, due later alongside a number of ECB speakers.

“The most important information to come from the accounts will be the degree of support there was for keeping QE open- ended by saying that it can be done beyond September,” said Peter Chatwell, head of euro rates strategy at Mizuho.

DOVISH TURN

Against a basket of currencies, the dollar stood at 93.086 .DXY, having shed 0.75 percent overnight.

Wads of U.S. Dollar banknotes are stacked in piles at the Money Service Austria company’s headquarters in Vienna, Austria, November 16, 2017. REUTERS/Leonhard Foeger

The euro was enjoying the view at $1.1850 EUR= after climbing from $1.1731 on Wednesday.

The Fed’s dovish turn helped break a sell-off in short-term U.S. Treasuries, with yields on the two-year note US2YT=TWEB falling almost five basis points to 1.727 percent. That was the sharpest daily drop since early September.

The rally spilled over into Asia, where Australian 10-year bond yields AU10YT=RR fell to their lowest since June.

MSCI’s broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan .MIAPJ0000PUS eked out a 10-year peak with a rise of 0.15 percent, as did Hong Kong’s main index .HSI.

Wall Street had been an oasis of calm in comparison, with the Dow .DJI closing for the Thanksgiving break off 0.27 percent, while the S&P 500 .SPX lost 0.08 percent and the Nasdaq .IXIC added 0.07 percent.

Commodities were pushed onto the back foot again as the dollar started to recover in Europe. Gold was flat at $1,292.02 an ounce XAU= having added 0.9 percent overnight.

Oil prices paused after hitting their highest in more than two years after the shutdown of one of the largest crude pipelines from Canada cut supply to the United States.

U.S. crude futures CLc1 eased back 12 cents to $57.86 a barrel, after jumping 2 percent on Wednesday to ground last trod in mid-2015. Brent crude LCOc1 dipped 0.6 percent to $62.92 a barrel.

Additional reporting by Ritvik Carvalho in London and Wayne Cole in Sydney; Editing by Matthew Mpoke Bigg and John Stonestreet

Our Standards:The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

Higher oil prices help Wall Street nullify tech retreat

(Reuters) – Wall Street’s main indexes were flat in morning trading on Wednesday, but holding at record levels, as a retreat in technology stocks was offset by a jump in U.S. crude prices.

Traders work on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) in New York, U.S. November 17, 2017. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid

The minutes of the Federal Reserve’s latest policy meeting is due later in the day and will be scrutinized for the central bank’s thinking on inflation for more clarity on what it might do under a new chair next year.

A final quarter-point rise under current Chair Janet Yellen next month is almost fully baked in to short-term interest rates, underlining the Fed’s continuing optimism about the economy.

But the pace of rises is also slow enough not to scare stock investors who have thrived on a decade of cheap money.

Trading volumes were thin ahead of the Thanksgiving holiday on Thursday and an early close on Friday. The CBOE Volatility index .VIX, known as Wall Street’s fear gauge, was down for the fifth session in a row and at two-week lows.

“On this eve of Thanksgiving, the market is attempting to maintain an upward bias with oil prices and the macro news leading the way,” Peter Cardillo, chief market economist at First Standard Financial, wrote in a note.

At 9:40 a.m. ET (1440 GMT), the Dow Jones Industrial Average .DJI was down 6.89 points, or 0.03 percent, at 23,583.94, the S&P 500 .SPX was up 0.1 points, or 0.01 percent, at 2,599.13 and the Nasdaq Composite .IXIC was up 0.99 points, or 0.01 percent, at 6,863.46.

All of Wall Street’s main indexes closed at record levels on Tuesday, led by technology stocks, by far the best performing sector of the market this year.

After two days of gains, the sector dipped 0.32 percent, making them the biggest decliner among the 11 major S&P sectors.

The biggest drop was a 7.2 percent decline in Hewlett Packard Enterprise (HPE.N) after Chief Executive Meg Whitman said she would leave in February six years into the job.

That was followed by HP Inc (HPQ.N), comprising the computer and printer business that Whitman carved out of the old Hewlett Packard, which fell 5.7 percent after reporting an unimpressive profit.

The energy index .SPNY rose 0.62 percent. U.S. light crude jumped nearly 2 percent to their highest since July 2015 as a major pipeline cut Canadian deliveries to the United States, where inventories are already said to be falling. [O/R]

One other gainer was tractor maker Deere & Co (DE.N), which rose about 3.27 percent after reporting upbeat quarterly earnings and issuing a strong profit forecast for the year.

The Fed’s Open Market Committee releases minutes of its October policy meeting at 2:00 p.m. ET

Advancing issues outnumbered decliners on the NYSE by 1,658 to 852. On the Nasdaq, 1,481 issues rose and 871 fell.

Reporting by Sruthi Shankar in Bengaluru; Editing by Savio D’Souza

Our Standards:The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

Nasdaq opens at record on tech gains

(Reuters) – Wall Street indexes opened higher on Tuesday, with the Nasdaq hitting a record high, led by gains in technology stocks.

Traders work on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) in New York, U.S., November 20, 2017. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid

The Dow Jones Industrial Average .DJI rose 94.06 points, or 0.4 percent, to 23,524.39. The S&P 500 .SPX gained 8.57 points, or 0.33 percent, to 2,590.71. The Nasdaq Composite .IXIC added 30.99 points, or 0.46 percent, to 6,821.71.

Reporting by Sruthi Shankar in Bengaluru; Editing by Savio D’Souza

Our Standards:The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.