Stocks end flat on Black Friday

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Stocks ended a shortened trading day flat Friday, but November was a strong month for the market.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average and the S&P 500 ended little changed. The Nasdaq posted a modest gain. Trading volume was well below average Friday as many investors took the day off. The market closed three hours early Friday and was dark Thursday for Thanksgiving.

Despite the mixed finish Friday, all three indexes ended higher for the week. It was the eighth consecutive weekly gain for the Dow and S&P 500.

Stocks ended November with gains of between 3% and 4%. Stocks have been on a tear this year, with the S&P 500 up nearly 27%. Solid corporate earnings and continuing bond purchases by the Federal Reserve have helped spur strong buying this month, pushing the Dow and S&P to record highs.

Retailers were in focus as consumers turned out in droves for Black Friday.

The annual shopping bonanza kicked off earlier than usual, with some of the biggest stores such as Sears (SHLD)-owned Kmart, Wal-Mart (WMT), Best Buy (BBY), Macy's (M) and Target (TGT) opening their doors on Thursday evening.

While the early openings drew large crowds, shares of most major retailers were only modestly higher Friday.

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Wal-Mart appears to be the most popular destination, with foot traffic up 160% over the normal shopping day, according to data on users of the smartphone app Shopular.

Target reported "unprecedented numbers" of shoppers in stores and on the company's website.

Yet the large turnout of bargain hunters may not necessarily translate to big profits for retailers, said Brian Sozzi, chief strategist at Belus Capital Advisors. Despite the large crowds, Sozzi said the hauls consumers brought home were relatively modest at the shopping centers he visited.

"My sense is that retailers will have to raise their level of promotions to close more sales," he said. "I just didn't see the bag size and bag count one would expect given ramped up promotional messages."

Not all shoppers were willing to brave the crowds on Thursday and Black Friday. Thanksgiving online sales are up nearly 20% over the same period last year, according to data from IBM Digital Analytics Benchmark.

Apple pie and Bitcoin is golden: Apple (AAPL) shares were getting some Black Friday love. The stock rose back above $555 a share, a level it hasn't hit since early January. The iPad and iPhone maker has clawed back from deep year-to-date losses in the summer, when prices fell below $400 a share. Apple's stock is now up almost 5% in 2013.

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And the amazing run in virtual currency Bitcoin continues. The price of one bitcoin hit a new all-time high of $1,242 Friday. That puts Bitcoin prices within $10 of topping the price of an ounce of gold.

It was a fairly muted day of trading across the globe. Major European stocks and Asian markets ended mixed.

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