US stocks soared on Black Friday in a shortened trading session on Wall Street as shoppers braved the post-Thanksgiving rush to pick up discounted toys, TVs and electronics.
The Dow Jones Industrial Average gained 173 points, or 1.35 percent, the biggest gain in months, reports the Wall Street Journal. The Standard & Poor’s 500-stock index closed at 1 p.m. Eastern time with a gain of 1.3 percent and the Nasdaq composite index rose 1.4 percent.
The day after Thanksgiving is traditionally the start of the Christmas shopping season where retailers see their biggest sales of the year. During this year's Black Friday, shares of electronics retailer Best Buy were up 1.1 percent, reports the New York Times.
Walmart reported its "best ever" Black Friday event, selling 1.8 million towels, 1.3 million televisions, 1.3 million dolls and 250,000 bicycles since 8 pm Thursday, reports iStockanalyst.
Walmart was the subject of numerous employee protests across 46 states on Black Friday. Protest organizers estimated that 1,000 demonstrations took place at Walmart stores on Thursday and Friday as employees push for better working conditions and protest against store openings on Thanksgiving.
Early reports from retailers indicate strong consumer spending this year, reports AP. Many stores opened earlier this year, including some that welcomed customers on Thanksgiving night.
"Foot traffic appears heavier than we've seen in recent years, there are a lot of positive statements out of the companies themselves, and momentum appears to be strong," said JJ Kinahan, chief derivatives strategist at the brokerage TD Ameritrade told AP.
Despite strong retail results, stocks are likely to have big swings before the end of the year as investors continue to worry about higher tax rates and sharp spending cuts that will go into effect in January if congress does not come up with a budget agreement.
Stephen Wood, chief market strategist with Russell Investments, which manages about $159 billion in assets, told the Wall Street Journal that he expects stocks to be volatile in the run up to the so-called fiscal cliff.
"I think pricing is going to be volatile. On any given day, a bounce back from recent weakness isn't surprising," Wood said.