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The Dow Jones Industrials (DJINDICES: ^DJI ) looked to finish the week on the same positive note on which it started, with a gain of 70 points as of 10:30 a.m. EST setting the stage for the Dow to post its sixth-straight record closing high. But even as traders are taking a half-day off after the market's close at 1 p.m. EST today, shoppers are dominating the spotlight among investors. Wal-Mart (NYSE: WMT ) , Microsoft (NASDAQ: MSFT ) , and Visa (NYSE: V ) are all responding to shopper demand, as all of them rely in different ways on the success of this year's holiday season. Let's see what's happening with those key stocks today.
Wal-Mart picked up 0.4% after being one of many retailers to open their doors last night rather than waiting until a traditional early morning Black Friday opening. With the retail world upping the ante on holiday shopping in an all-out attempt to retain as much market share as possible, Wal-Mart has already declared victory, issuing a press release early this morning in which it announced "record-breaking Black Friday results" just six hours into Friday. The release announced that Wal-Mart had 10 million register transactions in stores, and almost 400 million page views on its website yesterday, and volumes will only grow today. Even though the retailer is likely to see protests for its holiday opening, the positive results will likely make Black Thursday a permanent fixture in future holiday seasons.
Microsoft jumped 1.8% as it faces a critical test of its overall business strategy. The long-awaited release of the Xbox One has gotten the lion's share of investor attention as it goes head-to-head against Sony and its PlayStation 4 in the first release of new consoles in years. Yet, Microsoft will also have to look closely at results from sales of its tablets and smartphones in light of immense competition among tech giants, with sales of new iPads and Chromebooks posing a direct threat to its attempts to become more relevant in the mobile arena.
Visa gained 0.4% in morning trade. For the credit card giant, it doesn't matter what shoppers decide to buy, as long as they're spending money. Yet, even with an optimistic start to the holiday shopping season, Visa's bigger growth opportunity in the long run will likely come on the international front. Investors have already bid up Visa shares to high valuations in anticipation of its being able to cash in on that growth, so be sure to look beyond U.S. retail readings today to see whether Visa is living up to investors' expectations of it.