Investors watched for early trends in sales as the holiday shopping season got underway. Retailers were one of two industry groups in the S&P 500 to rise.
Stocks overall have surged this year as the economy maintains a slow but steady recovery and corporations keep earnings growing. Demand for stocks also has been bolstered by Federal Reserve policies that have held down interest rates, making bonds less attractive investments than stocks.
Stocks rose for most of the day Friday but petered out in the last half-hour of trading. The New York Stock Exchange and the Nasdaq closed early, at 1 p.m., and activity was lower than average a day after Thanksgiving. Light trading can lead to sudden swings in markets.
Although the S&P 500 and Dow slipped, the Nasdaq composite rose 15 points, or 0.4 percent, to end at 4059.89. The index has surged 34 percent this year, more than the other two indexes.
And even though the S&P 500 eased Friday, it still rose for an eighth straight week, its longest stretch of weekly advances since 2004.
The broad stock index saw two of its 10 industry groups rise. One of them was consumer discretionary companies as investors hoped for improved holiday sales.
More than a dozen major chains opened on Thanksgiving and planned to keep their doors open through Friday, the traditional start to the holiday shopping season.
Retail sales are expected to rise 4 percent to $602 billion during the last two months of the year, according to the National Retail Federation. That’s higher than last year’s 3.5 percent growth. But sales could come at the expense of profits, analysts expect, as retailers are likely to use more discounting to draw in customers.
Shares of eBay, Amazon and Best Buy all advanced. EBay rose $1.22, or 3 percent, to $50.52, making it the second-biggest gainer in the S&P 500 index.
The S&P 500 has surged 26.6 percent this year, propelling it to a string of record highs. If its gain holds, it would be the strongest year for the index since 1998, when it rose 26.7 percent.
In government bond trading, the yield on the 10-year Treasury note rose to 2.74 percent from 2.73 percent on Wednesday.