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Although we don't believe in timing the market or panicking over market movements, we do like to keep an eye on big changes -- just in case they're material to our investing thesis.
Expect to see a flat start to the stock market today, as the Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJINDICES: ^DJI ) is set to fall by an insignificant 2 points at the opening bell. With Cyber Monday kicking off, online retailers like eBay should benefit from more shopping moving to the Internet. Yet, traditional retailers including Wal-Mart (NYSE: WMT ) and Best Buy (NYSE: BBY ) will also be in focus after sales results from the industry's biggest weekend failed to impress.
However, the box office was a real bright spot over the Thanksgiving holiday. Lions Gate's (NYSE: LGF ) Hunger Games: Catching Fire raked in more than $100 million in its second weekend, bringing the movie's worldwide total to $573 million. And that record result came despite a huge opening from Disney's (NYSE: DIS ) Frozen, which wasn't a Pixar creation, but had a very Pixar-like performance: It grossed a hot $66.7 million in its debut.
Lions Gate can be confident that it has a multi-year franchise on its hands, and that Catching Fire will beat the original Hunger Games' impressive haul. As for Disney, it's good to see that its in-house animation studio can succeed, given that Pixar, for the first time in eight years, won't be releasing a movie next year .
Unfortunately, the good news didn't spread to traditional retailers this past weekend. Total spending actually ticked lower over the Black Friday crush, according to the National Retail Federation. Sales did spike on Thanksgiving Day as stores opened earlier than ever, but companies just managed to pull revenue ahead from other days. And moving sales into the holiday itself also promises to hurt profits. Wal-Mart estimates that it will pay an additional $70 million to workers that came in on Thanksgiving .
Shoppers spent an estimated $407 over the holiday weekend, on average, down from $423 last year. That dip suggests that discounting is playing a major role in holiday shopping this year. Investors saw this coming, as Best Buy warned in early November that it planned to match other retailers in being "more promotional" this year. Still, discounting threatens to crimp gross margins for Best Buy, as well as most other retailers in the fourth quarter.
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