December didn't exactly start off as a month to remember for the stock market. The major indexes drifted lower on news that the holiday shopping season got off to a ho-hum start. Despite the push by major retailers to open this year on Thanksgiving, sales were actually down 2.7% from last year. Nevertheless, the National Retail Federation is predicting that receipts by year's end will be up 3.9% year-over-year. Today was a major opportunity to prove the guessing right with Cyber Monday. 86% of working Americans were expected to at least browse for merchandise online on the job.
Amazon (AMZN) moved lower today on what is likely to be a blockbuster day for the online retailer: Cyber Monday. But talk of Amazon sales took a backseat today to chatter about the company's drone delivery system which is now in testing. CEO Jeff Bezos unveiled the system on "6o Minutes" last night. Skeptics say it's unlikely the project will ever really get off the ground. As for Amazon stock, it went into today's trading session at an all-time high, up 53% this year.
Wal-Mart (WMT) and Target (TGT) also spent the day in the red. Shoppers were quite literally fighting to get inside Walmarts around the country on Thanksgiving. Doorbuster deals on TVs had people pushing and shoving each other for merchandise. And in Las Vegas, a Target shopper was shot in the leg trying to recover a big screen TV which was stolen from him in the parking lot. Those incidents aside, Walmart says it expects holiday sales this year to be stronger than last. The stock began the day at its 52-week high, up 17% year-to-date. As for Target, it's up a more modest 9% after a drop on its last earnings report. Target says that traffic and sales on Thanksgiving day were among the highest it has ever seen.
Apple (AAPL) products accounted for 22% of Target's sales on Black Friday. And the iPad mini was said to be Walmart's top-selling item. Combine those two facts and it could explain why Apple stock is now at its highest point so far in 2013. Another factor: business was particularly brisk at Apple stores on Black Friday when the company was giving out gift cards with the purchase of devices like iPads. Despite the climb, Apple stock is still down 5% in the last year.
Lions Gate Entertainment (LGF) finished nearly 1% higher on another boffo box office take for the Hunger Games sequel. "Catching Fire" took in $110-million dollars more over the holiday weekend. But "Fire" had some competition from ice. Disney's (DIS) "Frozen" was a strong second, making $93-million in its debut. Disney stock hit an all-time high last Wednesday. It's up 38% this year.
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