It's a relatively quiet day in the markets, as many traders have likely departed for the Thanksgiving holiday already. At roughly halfway through the trading session, the Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJINDICES:^DJI) is up 30 points, or 0.24%.

Data released this morning by the Labor Department suggests that fewer Americans filed for unemployment benefits last week compared to the week before. Jobless claims came in at 410,000, falling in the middle of economists' anticipated range of 365,000 to 500,000. According to a Labor Department official interviewed by Bloomberg, the figures remain distorted by Hurricane Sandy, as applications surged in New York and New Jersey, the two states that suffered the brunt of the storm's damage.

Also out today were the final figures from the Thompson Reuters/University of Michigan index of consumer sentiment for November. The figure came in at 82.7, slightly beating out the 82.6 number recorded in October. While it missed the consensus estimate of 84.5, the index is nevertheless at a five-year high.

In terms of individual stocks, shares of Hewlett-Packard (NYSE:HPQ) are leading the Dow higher today, currently up 1.45%. This comes on the heels of yesterday's double-digit decline after the technology giant reported worse than expected third-quarter earnings. The drama surrounding HP's acquisition of the U.K. software company Autonomy continues to gain momentum. Yesterday, salvos were fired from virtually every direction, and it was reported today that the FBI is investigating the company for alleged accounting improprieties.

On the downside, meanwhile, shares of Intel (NASDAQ:INTC) are the worst performing stocks on the blue-chip index, down 1.1% in intraday trading. The company announced on Monday that its CEO Paul Otellini will be stepping down next spring. The move was purportedly voluntary, though it follows a series of perceived missteps at the technology giant, the biggest of which was thus-far missing out on the mobile market. For a great article about whether it's time to sell Intel, read this take by three of our top analysts.

Also in the crosshairs today are shares of retail companies. With the pivotal holiday shopping season right around the corner, all eyes are on how companies like Wal-Mart (NYSE:WMT) and Target (NYSE:TGT) will fare. Both companies have said that they will open early for black Friday to try and capture additional sales. Wal-Mart will open its doors at 8 p.m. on Thanksgiving day while Target will open its at 9 p.m.

This article represents the opinion of the writer, who may disagree with the “official” recommendation position of a Motley Fool premium advisory service. We’re motley! Questioning an investing thesis -- even one of our own -- helps us all think critically about investing and make decisions that help us become smarter, happier, and richer.