Stocks swung higher at the session's half as the major indexes shook off early weakness on continued concern over Europe's debt crisis. In the U.S., shoppers were out in force as retailers - which had jockeyed throughout December to open earlier than one another - are expected to log sales gains for Black Friday.
Today's session ends at 1 PM EST.
The day known as "Black Friday," which kicks off the holiday shopping season, began as early as Thanksgiving night for some stores. The National Retail Federation expects 152 million people to hit stores this weekend, up 10.1% from last year.
Retail executives and analysts are predicting a more competitive season than 2010. The U.S. unemployment rate remains at 9% and stock market volatility as Europe grapples with debt woes is weighing on consumer sentiment.
Overseas, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Nicolas Sarkozy agreed to institute a plan to change the EU's treaties in an effort to rebuild trust in the monetary union. However, investors met this development with skepticism, not optimism.
The Italian government sold 8 billion euros ($10.7 billion) of six-month Treasury bills, producing an average yield of 6.50%, up from 3.54% in an Oct. 26 sale. The increased yield reinforced concerns that the spread of the debt crisis may make it very difficult for Italy to meet its funding needs.
Yields have fallen significantly this week, amid the ongoing turmoil in Europe, but this has not alleviated concerns of debt contagion in the euro-zone. The poorly-received auction of German government bonds, earlier this week underlined fears the region's debt crisis could overwhelm the core of the euro-zone.
In mid-day company news:
Target Corporation ( TGT ) edged just higher higher as one of the early openers in the Black Friday retail race. Shares are up 0.1% in mid-session trading.
ING Groep's ( ING ) could face a book loss should it be be forced into a spin-off of its U.S. insurance business in the current weak market climate, the company's chief executive Jan Hommen said today, MarketWatch reported.
Shares of Chevron ( CVX ) are lower while Bloomberg reported yesterday that the oil major wasn't downgraded from its Class A status as an operator in Brazil. A downgrade had been suspected as a result of a spill at the company's Frade oil field.
Apple ( AAPL ) shares are up after the company offered discounts on its iPad 2, iPod, MacBoook and iMac products, TheStreet.com notes in a report. The company teased the promo earlier in the week, calling it a special one-day Apple shopping event, the report said.
Amarin ( AMRN ) shares are moving to the upside this morning after it announced that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has accepted its New Drug Application (NDA) for AMR101, and deems the application complete for a substantive review.
Commodities are mixed as January gold contracts are down 0.1% to $1,697 an ounce while January crude oil contacts are up 0.76% to $96.90 a barrel.
In energy ETFs, the United States Oil Fund (USO) is up 0.8% to $37.46 and the United States Natural Gas fund (UNG) is up 0.69%, to $8.05.
In precious metal ETFs, the SPDR Gold Trust (GLD) is down 0.06% to $164.73. Market Vectors Gold Miners (GDX) is up 0.2% to $55.58. iShares Silver Trust (SLV) is down 1.1% to $30.55.
Here's where markets stand at mid-day:
-NYSE up 44.79 (+0.65%) to 6,964.71
-DJIA up 81.59 (+0.68%) to 11,334.45
-S&P 500 up 8.50 (+0.73%) to 1,170.29
-Nasdaq up 6.45 (+0.26%) to 2,466.79
Nikkei down 0.06%
Hang Seng down 1.37%
Shanghai Composite down 0.7%
FTSE-100 down 0.4%.
DAX-30 down 0.4%.
MID-DAY NYSE INDEX WATCH
NYSE Energy up 0.32% at 11,473.94
NYSE Financial up 1.4% at 3,730.66
NYSE Health Care down 0.1% at 6,421.72
NYSE Arca Tech 100 up 0.26% at 1,033.46
(+) TGT (+0.1%) under the spotlight due to "Black Friday"
(+) POZN (+41.6%) jumps on migraine drug U.S. rights sale to Canada fund.
(+) T (+0.5%) signaled acquisition of T-mobile likely to fail
(+) WMT (+1.0%) under the spotlight due to "Black Friday"
(-) CLWT (-1.8%) awarded waste water treatment contract
(-) AMZN (-1.7%) twisting between early losses and gains; under the spotlight due to "Black Friday"
(-) CVX (-0.04%) refining status not downgraded after Brazil spill
(-) AEG (-0.3%) downgraded by Goldman Sachs
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