US stocks at records; euro gains on hopes of German political deal

The Christmas spending splurge can make or break the year for retailers. However, a squeeze in British workers' incomes -- due to Brexit-induced inflation and fierce competition from online sales -- is expected to make it a glum year for the retail sector

US stocks climbed to fresh records Friday on optimism about the holiday shopping season, while the euro surged following strong German economic data and on hopes that Europe's biggest economy would soon resolve a political crisis.

Both the S&P 500 and Nasdaq ended at all-time highs, with the S&P 500 topping 2,600 points for the first time, amid forecasts that US holiday sales could jump by four percent or more compared with the year-ago period.

"Holiday retail sales in 2017 are expected to rise 4.2 percent above last year, which would be the strongest growth rate since 2014," said a note this week from IHS Markit.

Some early data has already suggested an uptick in online sales compared with the year-ago period, but "the question is -- and will remain throughout the holiday selling season -- how much of the online sales strength will come at the expense of in-store sales?" said analyst Patrick O'Hare.

Amazon jumped 2.6 percent as it announced a bevy of deals ahead of the "Cyber Monday" shopping day. Last year, the online retailer sold more than 64 million items on "Cyber Monday," the day after the Thanksgiving weekend.

Others to gain included Macy's and Gap, although multipurpose retailing giant Target slumped 2.8 percent.

Both Paris and Frankfurt rose modestly, with the German stock index gaining 0.4 percent after the Ifo economic institute's German business climate index jumped to an all-time high in November, as companies shrugged off political uncertainty in Europe's booming top economy.

The German data also helped the euro, which surged back above $1.1900 for the first time since September, boosted also by hopes that Germany was closer to resolving its political crisis. The Social Democrats said they were ready to hold talks with caretaker Chancellor Angela Merkel, in a sign they might offer the veteran leader their key support.

London's stock market dipped, bucking an upwards trend elsewhere, as 'Black Friday' price-slashing wooed customers but was expected to hurt the bottom line of Britain's biggest retailers.

The mood in London soured also on news that British consumer confidence, tracked by pollster YouGov and the Centre for Economics and Business Research, has slumped to the lowest level since just after last year's shock Brexit referendum.

Oil prices rose, with US benchmark West Texas Intermediate ending at its highest level since July 2015, on reports that Russia and OPEC leaders were close to an agreement to extend an agreement to limited production.

- Key figures around 1815 GMT -

New York - DOW: UP 0.1 percent at 23,557.99 (close)

New York - S&P 500: UP 0.2 percent at 2,602.42 (close)

New York - Nasdaq: UP 0.3 percent at 6,889.16 (close)

London - FTSE 100: DOWN 0.1 percent at 7,409.64 points (close)

Frankfurt - DAX 30: UP 0.4 percent at 13,059.84 (close)

Paris - CAC 40: UP 0.2 percent at 5,390.46 (close)

EURO STOXX 50: UP 0.3 percent at 3,582.30

Tokyo - Nikkei 225: UP 0.1 percent at 22,550.85 (close)

Hong Kong - Hang Seng: UP 0.5 percent at 29,866.32 (close)

Shanghai - Composite: UP 0.1 percent at 3,353.82 (close)

Euro/dollar: UP at $1.1925 from $1.1851 at 2200 GMT

Pound/dollar: UP at $1.3324 from $1.3309

Dollar/yen: UP at 111.55 yen from 111.22 yen

Oil - Brent North Sea: UP 31 cents five cents at $63.86 per barrel

Oil - West Texas Intermediate: UP 93 cents at $58.95 per barrel