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Wall Street prepares for Black Friday

U.S. stock-index futures pointed to further Wall Street gains on Friday, as markets reopened after the Thanksgiving holiday.

Wal-Mart Stores, Target and J.C. Penney were among the retailers rising in early New York trading amid reports of strong sales and traffic after early Black Friday openings.

With no major corporate earnings or economic data due, investors will monitor how one of the key shopping days of the year unfolds. Stock and bond markets will close early, at 1 p.m. ET and 2 p.m. respectively.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average on Wednesday rose to a record close of 16,097.33 on Wednesday, and looked set to gain further on Friday, with positive consumer confidence data spreading cheer before the start of holiday shopping.

Shares were mixed in early trade in Europe, after ratings agency Standard & Poor's (S&P) cut the Netherlands' AAA credit rating to AA plus. The cut means Finland, Germany and Luxembourg are now the only euro zone countries rated AAA by S&P.

(Read more: Dutch Finance Minister Dijsselbloem: I take S&P downgrade seriously)

S&P also raised its rating for Cyprus to B-/B from CCC plus/C and revised its outlook on Spain to stable from negative.

The Spanish IBEX 35 traded around 0.4 percent higher on Friday after the S&P news. The Dutch AEX was narrowly lower, before paring losses to trade flat.

In Asia, investor profit-taking meant stocks took a break from their Wall Street-led rally. However, the Japanese Nikkei still achieved its best monthly performance in November since 2005, according to Reuters, having hit a six-year high on Thursday.

(Read more: Asian stocks lower on profit-taking; Nikkei posts 9.3% monthly gain)

Julian Jessop of independent research firm Capital Economics forecast further upside for the Nikkei.

"We see no reason why our end-2014 forecast of 16,250 cannot be reached (much) sooner than we had anticipated too," Jessop said in a research note on Thursday afternoon.

"Admittedly, the decline in the yen may now pause for breath ahead of next Friday's crucial U.S. employment report and the FOMC (Federal Open Market Committee) decision on December 18, as speculation of Federal Reserve tapering could sap risk appetite again. Nonetheless, Japanese stocks should still benefit next month from the likely announcement of cuts in the (Japanese) corporate tax burden, to help offset the impact of the consumption tax hike next April."

—By CNBC's Katy Barnato

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