US Markets

Retailers close higher after strong Black Friday, stocks finish little changed

Key Points
  • Investors cheered retail stocks earlier as they bet on strong holiday-season sales following Black Friday.
  • Wall Street also looked ahead to a Senate vote on tax reform set for later this week.
Dow rises slightly as energy sector lags Monday

Retailers closed higher on Monday as investors bet on strong sales during the holiday season following a strong Black Friday.

The SPDR S&P Retail exchange-traded fund (XRT) closed 0.3 percent higher, after rising as much as 1.5 percent. Macy's and Kohl's also rose session highs. Gap shares, meanwhile closed 1.2 percent higher after Wall Street analysts dubbed the company the "weekend winner."

E-commerce giant Amazon gained 0.8 percent as data from Adobe Analytics showed online Black Friday sales rose nearly 17 percent from last year. The stock, however, finished below a record high set earlier in the session.

"That space seems to be a 'show me' story," said Art Hogan, chief market strategist at Wunderlich Securities. "It only takes a bit of good news for these companies to go higher." He noted, however, that Wall Street remained cautious ahead of a key vote set for later in the week.

Traders work on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange.
Brendan McDermid | Reuters

The Dow Jones industrial average rose 22.79 points to close at 23,580.78 points higher, just missing a record close. However, the index did manage to hit an intraday record of 23,638.92.

The fell 0.04 percent to close at 2,601.42, as a 6.7 percent pullback in Western Digital offset a 4 percent gain in L Brands. The Nasdaq composite, meanwhile, declined 0.15 percent to finish the day at 6,878.52. Both indexes had also reached record highs before closing lower.

The Senate is expected to vote on a bill aimed at reforming the U.S. tax code on Thursday. Investors have been eagerly awaiting tax reform since last year's election, but doubts about whether the Republican-led Congress would be able to achieve this before year-end have lingered.

If the Senate bill passed, then a joint bill with the House would have to be created. The House passed a bill on Nov. 16 to cut taxes on businesses and individuals, but it differs from the Senate bill in some key areas.

The most significant difference between the chambers' plans is the treatment of state and local tax deductions. The Senate plan would eliminate those deductions entirely. The measure could alienate some House Republicans who voted for the chamber's bill that would allow up to $10,000 in property tax deductions.

However, L. Thomas Block, Washington policy strategist at Fundstrat Global Advisors, said he expects a joint tax bill to be passed by Christmas.

"House and Senate Republicans can't face the voters in 2018 without passing a tax bill," he said.