By Barbara Kollmeyer, MarketWatch
Oil prices climb on key pipeline disruption
U.S. stock futures inched higher on Friday, in what will be a shortened session likely to be dominated by retailers such as Wal-Mart Stores Inc. as Black Friday holiday shopping kicks off.
What are the main benchmarks doing?
S&P 500 futures rose 3.9 points, or 0.1%, to 2,598.50, while Dow Jones Industrial Average futures added 21 points, or less than 0.1%, to 23,506. Nasdaq-100 futures gained 5.75 points, or less than 0.1%, to 6,395.25.
The New York Stock Exchange and the Nasdaq will close at 1 p.m. Eastern Time on Friday, while the Securities Industry and Financial Markets Association recommends a 2 p.m. Eastern close for bond markets. U.S. financial markets were closed Thursday in observance of Thanksgiving Day.
In a week shortened by the holiday, the DJIA and S&P 500 are each looking at gains of 0.7%, while the Nasdaq Composite is set to gain 1.2%, with just a shortened session of trading to go.
Goldman Sachs:'Rational exuberance' to drive stock market in 2018
On Wednesday, the S&P 500 and Dow posted moderate falls , while the Nasdaq Composite inched up slightly. That softer tone came as minutes of the latest Federal Reserve meeting indicated an interest-rate hike is possible, but the pace of future tightening could be more moderate.
Stock futures had a quiet day of trade on Thanksgiving Day.
What could help drive markets?
Roughly half of normal trading volumes are expected on Friday, and investors are likely to zero in on how retailers are faring for Thanksgiving Day and Black Friday shopping.
Adobe Analytics data showed online shoppers spent $1.52 billion on Thanksgiving Day, with smartphones accounting for 46% of all traffic going to U.S. retail websites.
Opinion:Investors can feel safe ignoring the Black Friday and Cyber Monday shopping reports
On the data front, a preliminary reading of the manufacturing purchasing managers' index for November is expected from Markit at 9:45 a.m. Eastern Time, along with the services PMI.
Which stocks are in focus?
Amazon.com Inc.(>> Amazon.com) , Wal-Mart Stores Inc.(>> Wal-Mart Stores) , Target Corp.(>> Target Corporation) and Macy's Inc.(M) are among the retailers expected to compete for shoppers' attention with a wide range of deals.
Wal-Mart and Target shares were unchanged in premarket trading, while Amazon was up 0.7%.
What are analysts saying?
"The pre-sales data indicate a better performance compared with last year; early numbers point at a solid 18% year-over-year increase in November sales so far. U.S. households' holiday spending could increase as much as 4% compared with last year, according to Bloomberg news," said Ipek Ozkardeskaya, senior market analyst at LCG.com.
Analysts are continuing to release their stock-market forecasts for the coming year. Strategists at Société Générale said in their outlook released Thursday that bullish investors may have a tough time in 2018.
"We expect stretched valuations and rising bond yields to limit equity index performances in 2018 and the prospect of a U.S. economic slowdown in 2020 to further cramp returns in 2019," said a team led by Roland Kaloyan, head of European equity strategy.
What are other assets doing?
European stocks were gaining ground . In Asia , stocks moved mostly higher, with China's Shanghai Composite stabilizing after a losing streak .
Oil futures moved higher, as investors kept watch on a pipeline disruption to a major crude-oil hub in the U.S . The ICE U.S. Dollar Index drifted lower, while gold futures dipped.