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The Occupy Wall Street Index: Black Friday Booms While Student Loan Activism Looms


Occupy Black Friday was a resounding flop, but the movement makes progress on student-loan debt.

The Occupy Wall Street movement experienced a setback this weekend as its latest effort, Occupy Black Friday, was a resounding flop.

Occupy Black Friday encouraged consumers to boycott retailers like Occupy Wall Street Index member Wal-Mart (WMT) (see The Occupy Wall Street Index: 9 Companies the 99% Loves to Hate), and the wannabe-elitist teen retailer Abercrombie & Fitch (ANF) (see: Give Me Your Privileged, Your Elite, Your Huddled Ivy Leaguers Yearning to Look Rich) with the goal of hitting corporate America where it really hurts -- the bottom line.

My family, which spent the Thanksgiving holiday in Las Vegas, heeded the call. We weren't about to battle crowds and wait on huge lines just to hand our money over to some lousy fat-cat CEO.

Instead, we did something far more constructive with our hard-earned bucks on Black Friday -- we hit up The Gun Store and poured hundreds of rounds into paper targets of terrorists and other assorted bad guys. After that little adventure, we drove right past Index member McDonald's (MCD) to head to the equally affordable but vastly superior In-N-Out Burger -- something the 99% might appreciate.

But the numbers say it all: Comscore said that online Black Friday sales rose 26% to $816 million, while Shoppertrak put in-store sales at $11.4 billion, up 7%.

The numbers are largely the result of heavy promotional activity (see: What Does Black Friday's Creep on Thanksgiving Say About American Retail?) rather than economic strength, which may explain why the Retail HOLDRS (RTH) ETF is actually underperforming the broader markets today.

However, while Occupy Black Friday was a total failure, another far more interesting phase of financial activism is blooming.

Just recently, the Occupy Student Debt campaign was launched with a goal of getting 1 million students to pledge to not make student loan payments -- something that might tick off our index' student-loan representative SLM Corp. (SLM), which you may know as Sallie Mae.

On the Occupy Student Debt Tumblr blog, students and grads are publicly lamenting just how tough it is to get their loans paid off -- even when those pesky monthly payments are up-to-date:

(Click to enlarge)

Now, it's important to note that student-loan debt is one area in which Occupy Wall Street has already been succeeding. President Obama recently announced of a plan to cap student loan payments at 10% of discretionary income beginning in 2012 (see: Occupy Wall Street: The Party's Over) rather than 2014 as previously planned, along with other benefits and concessions. So it's obvious that Washington has been paying attention to this issue.

The youth vote was an important swing factor in Obama's victories in the 2008 Democratic primaries and Presidential election. Here in 2011, students and college grads are short on hope and long on frustration, so making real progress on student loans is a surefire way to buy some loyalty for 2012.

In other Occupy Wall Street Index news, the 99% should be excited by the prospect of lower pay on Wall Street. The executing recruiting firm Options Group said that bonuses could fall 35-40% this year as trading revenue at leading firms like index member Goldman Sachs (GS) continues to weaken.

We're also seeing social-media powerhouse Twitter continue to monetize Occupy Wall Street (see: How Twitter Makes Money From Occupy Wall Street), with the New York Times (NYT) promoting digital subscriptions via the #OWS hashtag:

(Click to enlarge)

And finally, here's the performance of the Occupy Wall Street Index vs. the S&P 500 as of Friday's close:

(Click to enlarge)

Still not much excitement. The Occupy Wall Street Index is slightly underperforming, though that could turn around quickly should the rebound in financial stocks continue.

Stay tuned for more updates!

Twitter: @MichaelComeau

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