NEW YORK (AP) -- Stocks rose in holiday-shortened trading Friday, putting the market on track for another strong month.
Retailers were among the leading gainers as the busiest shopping day of the year, Black Friday, got underway.
More than a dozen major chains opened on Thanksgiving Day and planned to stay open through Friday, the traditional start to the holiday shopping season. Crowds formed early and often throughout the two days
Investors will be following sales trends closely to get a read on the health of retailers, as well as the wider economy. Consumer spending is a critical component of the U.S. economy.
Shares of EBay, Amazon and Best Buy all advanced. EBay rose $1.33, or 2.7 percent, to $50.63, making it the second-biggest gainer in the Standard & Poor's 500 index.
The S&P 500 index rose five points, or 0.3 percent, to 1,812 in early afternoon trading. The Dow Jones industrial average gained 57 points, or 0.4 percent, to 16,154. The Nasdaq composite rose 22 points, or 0.6 percent, to 4,067.
The S&P 500 index has surged 27 percent this year, propelling it to a string of record closes. If the gain holds, it would be the strongest year for the index since 1997, when it rose 31 percent
Stocks have risen as the economy has kept up a slow but steady recovery and corporations have kept earnings growing. Demand for stocks has also been bolstered by Federal Reserve policies, which have held down interest rates, making bonds less attractive investments than stocks.
Friday was the last trading day of the month, and activity was lower than average the day after Thanksgiving. The New York Stock Exchange and the Nasdaq will close early at 1 p.m. Eastern Time. No major economic reports are scheduled.
November is typically a strong month for the stock market, and this year is no exception. The S&P 500 has gained 3.1 percent, the ninth month this year that the index has advanced.
Returns for the month rank as the third best for the Dow and the S&P 500, according to the Stock Trader's Almanac, which has analyzed data going back to 1950.
An unexpectedly robust jobs report gave stocks a lift at the start of the month, and strong corporate earnings reports for the third quarter helped maintain the momentum.
Almost all of the companies in the S&P 500 have reported their third-quarter earnings. Profits are forecast to increase by 5.7 percent compared with the same period a year ago, according to data from S&P Capital IQ. Earnings growth is also better than then 4.9 percent achieved in the second-quarter.
"November is a time when investors evaluate earnings reports, and if share prices are the yardstick that you're looking at, then investors liked what they saw," said Lawrence Creatura, a portfolio manager at Federated Investors.
In government bond trading, the yield on the 10-year Treasury note rose to 2.75 percent from 2.73 percent on Wednesday. In commodities trading, the price of oil rose $1.24 cents, or 1.3 percent, to $93.54 a barrel in New York. The price of gold rose $12.80, or 1 percent, to $1,250.60.
STEVE ROTHWELL, AP Markets Writer