Equities ended the abbreviated week on a bullish note - with the S&P 500 having its second best week of the year - boosted by positive retail sales estimates and upbeat economic reports out of Europe. For the week, the S&P 500 gained 3.62 percent, the Dow gained 3.73 percent, and the Nasdaq gained 3.99 percent, erasing some of the losses we saw in previous weeks. Although the holiday shopping season is just beginning, early information suggests retailers can expect a good showing this year. A recent consumer survey by Deloitte suggested that shoppers would spend an average of $286 over the holiday weekend, which is a 28 percent increase over a similar survey last year. Additionally, the National Retail Federation forecasts holiday sales to grow 4.1 percent over last year. This is good news for retailers, who expect to make between 40-50 percent of their profits during the holiday shopping season. Hoping to goose the start of the shopping season, some retailers began offering Black Friday deals on Thanksgiving Day. Interestingly, the promotional push may have stolen sales from Black Friday itself. However, if Thursday's numbers are added to Black Friday, stores still saw a total increase in sales of almost 1 percent over 2011, and store visits increased 3.5 percent, indicating that consumers are feeling confident and want to spend money. The fiscal cliff is still very much on everyone's minds, and despite reassuring jawboning by lawmakers, we don't know how likely it is that we will see a resolution by Christmas. Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke fanned the flames during a speech last week by commenting that if a resolution is not reached, the U.S. economy will slide into recession. If that were allowed to happen, he does not believe that the Fed has the tools needed to help and that the economy would be on its own. While this isn't a happy thought, it's clear that Bernanke is using his bully pulpit to push lawmakers into action. His message is clear: "Make it happen, or you're on your own."Monday of this week is widely known as "Cyber Monday," the largest online shopping day of the year. As workers return to their desks after the long holiday weekend, many are still in shopping mode, and retailers offer online specials to lure them away from brick and mortar stores. It will be interesting to see if Cyber Monday numbers are as encouraging as Black Friday's. Also this week, analysts will be turning their attention to the state of economic reports being released, including GDP, employment data, and consumer confidence. Headlines• IPad and iPhone dominate Black Friday online shopping. IBM found that 24% of online shoppers used mobile devices, compared to 14.3 percent in 2011. The iPad was used by 88.3 percent of tablet shoppers. • Greece closer to aid deal. After several days of bargaining and politicking, Europe's leaders are moving closer to a new bailout deal for Greece. The IMF has agreed to relax its debt-cutting targets for Greece, meaning the country may not be forced to adopt additional austerity measures. • Chinese manufacturing numbers are up. After seven consecutive months of slowing, an important manufacturing index is up as factory orders pick up. Since manufacturing forms a large part of the Chinese economy, this could indicate that the world's second-largest economy might be recovering from its slump. • Oil prices surge on Israel tensions. Oil prices rose above $88 a barrel, on increased tensions in the Middle East. A brewing fight between Israeli forces and Gaza separatists is causing supply worries, pushing up the price. Mark Ballenger is an investment and financial planning consultant offering services to individual investors and business owners. His company, Ballenger Asset Management, is located in Avon and can be reached at 970-471-9962. This report has been created with the cooperation of Platinum Advisor Marketing Strategies LLC. Securities offered through Cambridge Investment Research, a broker-dealer, member FINRA/SIPC. Ballenger is an investment adviser representative for Cambridge Investment Research Advisors Inc., a registered investment adviser. Ballenger Asset Management and Cambridge are not affiliated.
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