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Stocks mixed as Black Friday tally awaited

Black Friday, the so-called Super Bowl of the retail selling season, is underway, but the stock market was little changed in the holiday-shortened session as investors waited, and waited, for sales results from the kickoff to the holiday shopping season. In the past 50 years, the Friday after Thanksgiving is typically a day of gains on Wall Street, with the Standard & Poor’s 500 stock index posting gains of 0.27% on average, finishing up 70% of the time, according to Schaeffer’s Investment Research. (One caveat: Stocks have finished down the Friday after Thanksgiving five of the past six years, the investment firm adds.)AP FINANCIAL MARKETS WALL STREET F USA NY

The Dow Jones industrial average finished down 0.1%, off 15 points. Climbing were the S&P 500 and the Nasdaq composite, up 0.1% and 0.2%, respectively. Stock trading on Wall Street ended at 1 p.m. ET, three hours earlier than the normal closing bell. Alexx Eppstein, an analyst at Schaeffer’s Investment Research, told clients in an early morning note to expect “a quiet post-Thanksgiving session.”

“With nothing in the way of earnings or economic data to digest today, traders will await Black Friday updates from retailers,” he said. “Investors are also turning their attention overseas, where Chinese stocks were crushed by news of government probes into a few brokerage firms. Next week promises to be far more eventful, with a pair of speeches from Fed Chair Janet Yellen, plus the Labor Department’s all-important nonfarm payrolls report on Friday.” The Thanksgiving weekend is critical to the bottom lines of the nation’s retailers, with 20% of all retail sales for the full year coming in the four-day weekend, according to the National Retail Federation. The NRF expects 136 million shoppers this weekend, up from 134 million a year ago.

So far the buzz on sales has been upbeat. Adobe, which tracks online sales, says online sales on Thanksgiving from 5:30 p.m. to midnight totaled $1 billion, up 22% from last year. And Macy’s CEO Terry Lundgren told CNBC that traffic was strong at its flagship Herald Square store in New York City. He added that online sales have been “very strong.” It was “staggering to watch the flow of traffic coming into Herald Square,” Lundgren noted. Still, Macy’s CEO acknowledged that the unseasonably warm weather (he said November was “the warmest in 251 years”), will cut into profits on outdoor apparel, which has been discounted sharply to clear inventory.