Sometimes the retail sector can't win for trying. Retail sales following the holiday-shortened week better than expected as Black Friday began earlier for many large retail chains, but analysts are worried that they may be discounting too much to drive sales. With Congress back in session and fiscal-cliff talks getting back under way, the S&P 500 (SNPINDEX:^GSPC) took on a somber tone following its exceptionally strong turkey-shortened week and fell 2.86 points (-0.20%), to end at 1,406.29.
Not surprisingly, some of the biggest drags within the S&P 500 were big-chain retailers Macy's (NYSE:M) and Nordstrom (NYSE:JWN), which fell 4.5% and 4.1%, respectively. With big retailers such as Wal-Mart (NYSE:WMT) opening at 8 p.m. on Thanksgiving Day, some Black Friday sales were pushed forward and may have hurt traditional retailers such as Nordstrom and Macy's. Nordstrom, which has sales only twice a year, may not have been hurt as badly, but Macy's may have needed to use excess discounting to improve total sales. Soon we'll find out which way the pendulum swung for retailers on Black Friday.
On the plus side, Best Buy (NYSE:BBY) and Dell (UNKNOWN:DELL.DL), two badly beaten-down companies, helped lead the charge higher by 6.7% and 4.1%, respectively. According to Deutsche Bank analysts, of the 260 stores contacted by their researchers, Best Buy was the big customer traffic winner, attracting consumers with big discounts on TVs and other electronics. Similarly, Dell is continuing its move higher on renewed hopes that lighter laptops and new innovative designs will spur better-than-expected sales this holiday season.
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Fool contributor Sean Williams owns shares of Dell but has no material interest in any other companies mentioned in this article. You can follow him on CAPS under the screen name TMFUltraLong, track every pick he makes under the screen name TrackUltraLong, and check him out on Twitter, where he goes by the handle @TMFUltraLong.
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