Dow Headed for a Higher Close

After starting out slow, stocks are beginning to show signs of life the day before the markets close for Thanksgiving. The Dow Jones Industrial Average (INDEX: ^DJI  ) is up 43 points, or 0.34%, as of 2:55 p.m. EST.

What's driving stocks today?
The financial media continues to be enthralled by the debacle at Hewlett-Packard (NYSE: HPQ  ) . Yesterday the company released its third-quarter earnings, posting a $6.9 billion loss on $30 billion in revenue. The results were significantly worse than anticipated by analysts and stem largely from an $8.8 billion writedown related to the company's 2011 acquisition of U.K. software maker Autonomy.

According to HPs CEO Meg Whitman, Autonomy committed "serious accounting improprieties" and made "outright misrepresentations" in the lead-up to the deal. She has purportedly asked the SEC to investigate the matter, and today it was revealed that the FBI is looking into it as well. In response, Autonomy's founder and former CEO, Michael Lynch, said that he "completely reject(s)" the allegations and that an investigation will prove them to be untrue.

In other news, shares of Best Buy (NYSE: BBY  ) continue their descent today after falling nearly 7% yesterday. As with HP, the decline was triggered by a disappointing quarterly earnings report. The biggest concerns facing the company are its dwindling cash reserves and falling same-store sales.

While I'm no Jim Cramer fan, I think he's right on with his advice in this regard: "The simple fact is that Amazon.com (Nasdaq: AMZN  ) has been crushing these guys, while Costco (Nasdaq: COST  ) and Wal-Mart (NYSE: WMT  ) aren't taking any prisoners in the electronics space either." Consequently, he added, "If you don't own Best Buy ... take a pass."

The big question for Best Buy and other retailers concerns how well they'll perform this holiday shopping season. A Wall Street Journal article referred to it as retailers' "moment of truth," as last year they gathered up nearly a quarter of their total annual sales in the two months between Thanksgiving and Christmas.

With this in mind, many retailers, including Wal-Mart and Target (NYSE: TGT  ) , have decided to push up their Black Friday by opening on Thanksgiving Day. As a Yahoo! Finance headline put it, "Black Friday Creep Is Here to Stay." According to an analyst quoted in the article, "What Wal-Mart and Target want to do is open up their doors so that online shoppers will get out of the house and start their shopping earlier."

Wal-Mart will open its doors at 8 p.m., while Target will fling open an hour later. In addition, because Thanksgiving is earlier in November than it usually is, the shopping season will be longer, creating more opportunity for companies in this sector.

Finally, the last big piece of news to hit the wire today concerned Deere's (NYSE: DE  ) fiscal fourth-quarter earnings, which came out this morning. For the quarter, the farm equipment company's sales increase by 14% relative to the same quarter last year. Due to higher costs, however, its earnings only increased by 2.7% over the same time period.

According to the company's prepared remarks, chairman and CEO Samuel R. Allen said: "In the face of continuing global economic pressure, John Deere has completed another record year. Our success reflects positive customer response to our lines of innovative equipment coupled with extensive efforts to expand our global competitive position."

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