While Main Street America shook off the turkey-induced hangover and headed down to Wal-Mart for the 5 a.m. "door buster" bargains today, Wall Street meandered in to work at the usual hour and then took an early slide.
Traders stayed just long enough to conclude that shoppers were spending freely. Based on that evidence they did some buying, too, picking up enough shares to keep the market moving upward for the sixth day in a row.
When the closing bell rang at 1 p.m., the Dow Jones industrial average had gained almost 16 points to 10,931. 62. That left the Dow just 53 points shy of the peak it reached back on March 7 when the Dow hit a 4 1/2 year high.
The Standard & Poor's 500 stock index and the Nasdaq Stock Market composite index--which both hit new highs for the same time frame last week--continued to inch up. The S&P climbed almost 3 points to 1,268.25. The Nasdaq composite also picked up 3 points, closing at 2,263.01.
Retail stocks have been climbing based on early evidence that consumers once again will defy predictions and deliver the strong sales growth that merchants need. Just a few days ago, the International Council of Shopping Centers raised its Christmas sales forecast.
Despite the optimism, retailers aren't taking any chances. Led by Wal-Mart, mass merchants are marking down goods early this year. They want to avoid a rerun of last year when sales early in the season were so slow that even a strong, last minute rush failed to produce the gains stores were seeking.
First reports indicated the strategy was working. Wal-Mart said it served 2 million customers in the first two hours its stores were open. With Wal-Mart's doors opening at 5, those 2 million customers were through the checkout before the sun even came up.