It's too bad you can't get a Black Friday deal on some of these stocks. Ahead of the legendary American shopping stampede that begins the day after Thanksgiving, shares of Target (NYSE: TGT ) gained nearly 1%, Macy's (NYSE: M ) rose 1.13%, and J.C. Penney (NYSE: JCP ) jumped 7.69% on Wednesday. Barnes & Noble (NYSE: BKS ) even popped 8% after announcing a new, not-terrible e-reader for Christmas.
It wasn't just stores in the real world... that were enjoying the early holiday party. Online retailers Amazon.com (NASDAQ: AMZN ) and eBay (NASDAQ: EBAY ) both got in on the fun, rising more than 1% each on Cyber Monday hopes and dreams.
"Deal Fatigue" is worse than food poisoning from your aunt's mysterious Thanksgiving "food" contribution. Retailers have been getting increasingly aggressive with sales strategies: Kmart, Toys "R" Us, and Old Navy are all open pre-turkey carving, and Wal-Mart increased its one-hour-products-in-stock guarantee. For investors, the heavy serving of promotions hasn't entirely paid off, as the initiatives barely boost retailers' sales.
The takeaway is that despite all the LeBron James level of hype, this year's Black Friday has some bush-league expectations: Analysts forecast 140 million American shoppers this weekend, down from last year's 147 million, for the worst holiday sales season since '08. On top of the "deal issues," retailers are also facing a still-recovering economy, lower consumer confidence, and six fewer holiday shopping days because of a late Thanksgiving.
2. Apple rises on supply chain surprise
Just in time for the holidays, Steve Jobs' legacy is kicking things up a notch. Apple (NASDAQ: AAPL ) got its infamous Foxconn factory in China to add more workers and increase hours to reduce the wait time for its iPhone 5s from two to three weeks to three to five days. That kind of strenuous labor news means more iPhones under trees, sending Apple's stock up 2.35% Wednesday.
The number of the day is 500,000. And if you like numbers, we have some more fun ones for you that are pretty mind-wobbling: The Foxconn factory has more than 1,000,000 employees in China, 300,000 of whom work exclusively on making the iPhone 5s on 100 production lines operating 24/7. Someone get these assembly lines a Starbucks sponsorship.
The takeaway is that Apple has had a tough time in the post-Jobs era. No matter what iNerds say, investors have been wondering when the next Apple product actually deserving of weeklong lines is going to happen. The stock has fallen from all-time highs in 2012 (more than $700/share), down 25% from this time last year -- but Wall Street's gearing up for some potential Christmas sales magic from Apple, boosting the stock up 11% over the last three months.
3. Time Warner (might be) bought out
Charter, Cox, and Comcast -- the three Cs of Big TV -- are all fighting over a ripe acquisition target, Time Warner Cable (NYSE: TWC ) in New York. Bloomberg and The Wall Street Journal have reported from several inside sources over the past few months that TWC is a tasty target to get acquired, which has shot TWC's stock price up 40% this year on speculation of the deal.
Then the WSJ reported that Charter Communications was preparing to take on $25 billion in debt to purchase TWC. Its offer would give current TWC shareholders $90 in cash and some stock of the merged company in exchange for the takeover (TWC is currently trading around $136). If the takeover leads to faster service and smaller appointment windows ("Be at your home between 8AM and 4PM and we'll send someone"), then New Yorkers are in for fewer "I hate Time Warner" rants.
The cable TV companies are merging like teens during a slow dance to benefit from the economies of scale by sharing infrastructure and utility lines. Watch the next few months as TWC stock continues to fluctuate based on different offers from its three big suitors.
- The New York Stock Exchange closes early (1:00 p.m.) so you can finish digesting
- Details released on the Federal Reserve's balance sheet (fun stuff)