It's here. Black Friday has arrived, although the lines have blurred between Thanksgiving Thursday and Black Friday, which are turning into one in the same it seems in the retail universe where the sun never sets on the e-commerce platform and the deals are always on.
To be sure, Friday's "doorbusters" were available online Thursday, and early reports suggest plenty of shoppers put down the turkey leg and picked up their smartphones to take advantage of the deals.
Data from Adobe Analytics indicates $1.52 billion was spent online by 5:00 p.m. ET on Thanksgiving Day, up 16.8% from the same period a year ago.
The question is -- and will remain throughout the holiday selling season -- how much of the online sales strength will come at the expense of in-store sales? That answer will have to wait, yet the drivers are in place for active consumer spending this holiday.
Unemployment is low, home equity values are up, consumer confidence is near its best levels in more than a decade, and retailers are not holding back on the promotions. If only real income growth was stronger, the sales growth this holiday selling season could be through the roof.
The National Retail Federation is forecasting holiday retail sales in November and December, excluding auto, gasoline, and restaurant sales, to increase between 3.6% and 4.0%, versus a five-year average of 3.5% and a 3.6% growth rate last year. In other words, the forecast is for good, but not great, holiday sales growth.
In the same vein, the forecast for today's open is for good, but not great, gains.
The S&P futures are up seven points, the Nasdaq 100 futures are up 9 points, and the Dow Jones Industrial Average futures are up 40 points. Those indications are all approximately 0.1%-0.2% above their respective fair values.
Support has been provided by the initial reports highlighting early holiday sales strength, an encouraging business climate reading out of Germany, and rising oil prices ($58.71, +$0.69, +1.2%), which have been boosted by short-term supply disruptions tied to a Keystone pipeline outage, the growing political rift between Saudi Arabia and Iran, and speculation that OPEC and Russia could announce an agreement next week to extend production cuts.
As an aside, China's stock market had an ugly day on Thursday. The Shanghai Composite dropped 2.3% on regulatory concerns and bond market volatility, yet things quieted down today as the Shanghai Composite eked out a 0.1% gain.
European markets have also exhibited a modestly positive bias today. Germany's DAX Index (+0.8%) has been the leader, riding the strength of the Ifo Business Climate Index and news reports that Germany's Social Democratic Party (SPD) is open to talks with Chancellor Merkel that could avoid the call for new elections.
Corporate news on this side of the Atlantic has been sparse this morning, which is little surprise.
Beyond the retail stories, there are carryover reports that Broadcom (AVGO) could make another bid for Qualcomm (QCOM) next week, that Disney's (DIS) domestic ESPN subs hit their lowest level (88 million) in October since 2003, and that Carl Icahn has accumulated a 13.51% active stake in SandRidge Energy (SD) with the residual aim of voting against the company's proposed acquisition of Bonanza Creek Energy (BCEI).
As a reminder, the stock market closes at 1:00 p.m. ET today while the Treasury market closes at 2:00 p.m. ET. This trading day, though, is already over for many market participants who are finding better things to do than trade stocks in a thinly-traded market.