Tech leads Wall Street higher, Amazon and retail stocks gain

wall street

Technology stocks led the S&P 500 and Nasdaq to record high closes on Black Friday, while Amazon and retail stocks got a boost from signs of a strong start to the holiday shopping season.

The benchmark S&P and the blue-chip Dow Jones Industrial Average ended higher for the first time in three weeks, while the Nasdaq Composite posted its best performance since the first week of September.

The stock markets closed early on Black Friday, a day after Thanksgiving, the start of the holiday shopping season that accounts for as much as 40 percent of retailers’ annual sales.

Turnout at U.S. retailers was relatively subdued on Black Friday, with many shoppers flocking to stores to eye items in person while waiting to do their actual bargain hunting online.

On Thanksgiving, U.S. shoppers spent more than $2.87 billion online, according to Adobe Analytics. Adobe said Black Friday online sales were up 18.4 percent at $640 million as of 10 a.m. ET and would rise to a record of $5 billion.

The S&P retail index rose 0.63 percent and had hit a record high, led by Amazon’s 2.61 percent gain.

The online retail giant touted its sales for Cyber Monday, one of the biggest days for online shopping, and said shoppers using its digital assistant Alexa could score deals as early as Sunday.

“In the retail environment, Amazon is extremely important – the fact that Amazon continued to soar bodes well for the fourth-quarter holiday shopping season and it bodes well for Wall Street,” said Adam Sarhan, chief executive of 50 Park Investments.

Brick-and-mortar stores, which have been boosting their online presence, also fared well.

Macy’s closed up 2.1 percent. The department store operator’s chief executive told CNBC the company was better off this year than last and was seeing very robust online demand.

Kohl’s, Gap and J.C. Penney were up between 1.6 percent and 1 percent.

Target ended 2.8 percent lower, with analysts noting that it closed its stores for several hours overnight while rivals stayed open. Wal-Mart (WMT.N) inched up 0.2 percent.

The Dow rose 31.81 points, or 0.14 percent, to 23,557.99, while the S&P gained 5.34 points, or 0.21 percent, to 2,602.42. The Nasdaq added 21.80 points, or 0.32 percent, to 6,889.16.

The CBOE Volatility index, known as Wall Street’s fear gauge, was down 0.21 points to 9.67. It had hit a record low of 8.56.

Eight of the 11 major S&P sectors were higher, led by the technology sector’s 0.54 percent rise.

The energy index and the materials index were boosted by rising commodities prices.

U.S. oil prices jumped to a more than two-year high as North American markets tightened on the partial closure of a key pipeline linking Canada and the United States.

About 2.68 billion shares changed hands in U.S. exchanges in the shortened session. The daily average over the last 20 full sessions is 6.48 billion shares. Last year, volume during the session after Thanksgiving was about 3 billion.

Advancing issues outnumbered declining ones on the NYSE by a 1.61-to-1 ratio; on Nasdaq, a 1.31-to-1 ratio favored advancers.

The S&P posted 35 new 52-week highs and 1 new low; the Nasdaq recorded 120 new highs and 21 new lows.