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Pre-Market: Retailers Gear Up for Holiday Sales as Stock Indices Head for Record Highs

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Apple sold the vast majority of smartphones in Japan after the biggest carrier finally picked up the iPhone.

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Wall Street is gearing up for yet another record-high session as shoppers flock to retail stores for Black Friday deals.

Before the opening bell, Dow (INDEXDJX:.DJI) futures were up 0.28% at 16,119.00 while futures on the S&P 500 (INDEXSP:.INX) rose 0.23% to 1,808.40. Both indices reached record highs. After hitting a 13-year high on Wednesday, Nasdaq (INDEXNASDAQ:.IXIC) futures were up 0.48% to 3,485.25.

No major economic data points are scheduled for today. With many Wall Street professionals still out for the Thanksgiving holiday, trading volumes are expected to be low for today's half-day session.

Retailers like Wal-Mart (NYSE:WMT), Best Buy (NYSE:BBY), Target (NYSE:TGT) and Macy's (NYSE:M) begin the official holiday sales season, when their revenue should spike. Investors will be alert to how successful each retailer is at bringing in Christmas shoppers for Black Friday deals. Morgan Stanley (NYSE:MS) analysts said in an October report that year-over-year sales growth during the crucial holiday quarter is only expected to be 1.6% compared to a 3.5% increase last year. Retailers have responded with steeper discounts and more marketing. Thanksgiving came later this year, making the intra-holiday period shorter by six days.

JC Penney (NYSE:JCP) is hoping for a spark to get sales back on track, but the retailer will leave the S&P 500 index by the end of the day.

Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) sales gained 1% in the pre-market after a report showed that it claimed 76% of new smartphone sales in Japan in October. Last month, NTT Docomo (NYSE:DCM) started carrying the iPhone.

Overseas markets were also on the upswing on Friday. Japan's CPI, excluding food and energy prices, rose 0.3% year-over-year in October, the biggest increase in 25 years. The government and central bank have been on an aggressive anti-deflation push for just over a year now. Manufacturing PMI showed that the sector's growth accelerated in November. The index rose to 55.1 from 54.2 in October. (Readings over 50 indicate expansion.) October industrial production disappointed, rising just 0.5%. Unemployment in Japan was steady at 4%, but worker incomes fell 1.3%.

The Netherlands, a stalwart of the eurozone, was stripped of its AAA rating by S&P. The country's debt is rated at AA+ because the ratings agency does not believe that economic output will be below 2008 levels for the next three years at least. S&P also lifted its outlook on Spain to stable, and reiterated its BBB- rating. The analyst expect Spain's economy to shrink 1.3% this year and grow 0.8% in 2014.

Unemployment across the eurozone fell for the first time in nearly three years in October. The region's jobless rate fell to 12.1% in October from 12.2% in September.

Twitter: @vincent_trivett
No positions in stocks mentioned.
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