Nov. 23, 2012 at 9:41 AM ET
Stocks closed broadly higher in a holiday-shortened Friday session, with the major averages all gaining more than 1 percent. Techs led, with big-caps propelling the sector to its first positive week in the last 10.
The Dow Jones Industrial Average closed 1 percent higher, led by tech firms Hewlett-Packard , Microsoft and Cisco.
The S&P 500 and the Nasdaq also closed up, with the Nasdaq gaining 1.5 percent. The S&P 500 had its best five-day winning streak since mid-March.
The CBOE Volatility Index, widely considered the best gauge of fear in the market, fell to near 15.
Among key S&P sectors, techs and telecoms were the leading gainers, while utilities lagged.
Retailers were the main focus on "Black Friday" — often the busiest shopping day of the year.
Matthew Shay, National Retail Federation CEO, told CNBC that the holiday shopping season appears to be off to a great start with consumers flocking to the stores. “We’re predicting 4.1 percent sales growth this year which would be $585 billion,” he said.
Discount retailers Wal-Mart and Target were among the stores that opened their doors on Thanksgiving evening.
In a press release, Wal-Mart U.S. said it had its "best ever" Black Friday events, selling 1.8 million towels, 1.3 million televisions, 1.3 million dolls and 250,000 bicycles.
Terry Lundgren, Macy's chairman & CEO, told CNBC that the flagship Macy's store in New York City had a record crowd for its midnight opening. "It was a record crowd last year but that crowd was exceeded at this (Herald Square) store certainly this morning," he said.
Apple also kicked of a Black Friday sale, cutting prices on iPads, iPods and MacBooks.
Gap , Nordstrom , Bed Bath & Beyond and Dollar General were all higher.
“Earlier in the week was so surprising,” Matthew Cheslock of Virtu Financial told CNBC. “You had one of the biggest accounting scandals possibly, we had an insider trading scandal and the markets still went higher. Now we’re focused on retail, which is kind of a nice story. Maybe this gives us a nice little lift."
European stocks had their best week so far this year, boosted on Friday by strong German business confidence data and growing expectations Greece will receive more aid.
Greece said the International Monetary Fund had relaxed its debt-cutting target for the country, suggesting lenders were closer to a deal for a vital aid tranche to be paid. But other sources involved in the talks cautioned the funding gap was far bigger than Greece has suggested, according to Reuters. (Read More: Greece’s Lenders Move Closer to Deal on Funding.)
Turning to stock news, Blackberry maker Research In Motion was the subject of bullish analyst comments about the soon-to-be-released BlackBerry 10.
SAP , the German business software giant, is considering listing its stock in Shanghai.
After the close on Wednesday, General Motors announced that its financing arm will pay about $4.2 billion for the European and Latin American auto lending operations of Ally Financial.
In deal news, the Wall Street Journal reported that Baxter International is in talks to buy Swedish medical-equipment maker Gambro for about $4 billion in a bid to boost its kidney dialysis business.