Stocks fell Friday in thin trading, ending a shortened week quietly as the holiday shopping season began and attention turned to retailers and a steep decline in the dollar against other major currencies. The major stock indexes ended the week mixed, with only the Nasdaq composite index showing a gain.
The day after Thanksgiving — called Black Friday because by tradition it’s the day when a holiday shopping-surge could help boost store profits — appeared to be a busy one for retailers. Shoppers seeking post-holiday bargains inundated stores. Without tallies from cash register receipts, however, investors were forced to examine little more than anecdotal evidence as they tried to determine how sales for the all-important holiday season would fare.
With the stock markets closed Thursday for Thanksgiving and many investors taking a holiday Friday, Wall Street saw a quiet, shortened session. The thin trading volume typical of the post-Thanksgiving Friday can sometimes lead to erratic movements. The stock markets closed at 1 p.m. EST, rather than 4 p.m.
Richard Sparks, an analyst at Schaeffer’s Investment Research, noted stocks had pulled off their lows of the session as investors pared concerns about the strength of retail sales and the dollar, though he noted some pessimism remained. “I think those concerns are keeping some traders on the sidelines.”
The Dow Jones industrial average fell 46.78, or 0.38 percent, to 12,280.17.
Broader stock indicators ended lower. The Standard & Poor’s 500 index was down 5.14, or 0.37 percent, at 1,400.95, managing to stay above the 1,400 mark. The Nasdaq was down 5.72, or 0.23 percent, at 2,460.26.
For the week, the Dow fell 0.51 percent and the S&P slipped 0.02 percent, while the Nasdaq gained 0.59 percent.
The dollar fell against other major currencies in thin holiday dealing. Gold prices rose.
A weakening dollar stirred concerns of inflation. Investors have been hoping a softer inflation picture would prompt the Federal Reserve to eventually lower short-term interest rates. The central bank has left rates unchanged at its last three meetings, interrupting a string of 17 straight increases that began in 2004.
Sparks sees concerns about a weaker dollar as a positive because of the run-up stocks have enjoyed in recent months. “We always want to see something out there that the market is worried about,” he said, adding that such concerns help keep stocks from getting ahead of themselves.
In corporate news, Family Dollar Stores Inc. fell after the discounter said it won’t meet Friday’s late filing deadline for its financial results for the year ended Aug. 26. The company cited an investigation into stock-option practices.
Overseas, Japan’s Nikkei stock average closed down 1.13 percent. Britain’s FTSE 100 ended the day down 0.29 percent, Germany’s DAX index was down 0.98 percent, and France’s CAC-40 was down 0.65 percent.