Markets closed down on Wall Street today: 

  • Dow -0.23 percent
  • S&P -0.27 percent
  • Nasdaq -0.75 percent
  • Oil +0.62 percent
  • Gold -0.61 percent

On the commodities front:

  • Oil (NYSE:USO) climbed to $96.77 a barrel
  • Gold (NYSE:GLD) down to $1,688.50 an ounce
  • Silver (NYSE:SLV) fell 2.73 percent to settle at $31.09

(Related: Lawmakers Address Issues of Insider Trading in Congress)

Today’s markets were down because:

1) Europe: Europe’s debt crisis continued to burden investors this week after a series of lackluster debt auctions saw yields on Spanish, Italian, French, and even German debt rising. Meanwhile, Americans awoke from their tryptophan-induced comas this morning to find that Standard & Poor’s downgraded Belgium’s credit rating to AA from AA+, citing concerns about funding and market pressures, just a day after Moody’s Investors Service downgraded Hungary to junk and Fitch downgraded Portugal to junk. Black Friday indeed.

2) Tech: Internet stocks were some of the biggest decliners in today’s sell-off. Netflix, LinkedIn, and Groupon all continued their recent downward trends. Meanwhile, Amazon and eBay also moved lower, despite positive Thanksgiving e-commerce data. Retail stocks were in focus today as shoppers headed for the stores and braved huge crowds and the threat of trampling to get the best deals, but e-commerce sites will be back in focus on Cyber Monday.

3) Retail: With consumer spending already lagging after a better third quarter, retail stocks were in focus today as companies like Macy’s and Best Buy tried to lure in customers with huge Black Friday sales. Though both stocks slipped slightly, as did the broader markets, whether sales justify such a move remains to be seen.

Fox News has cited retailers who are calling this Black Friday one of the best in history as droves of people pour into stores like Target and Wal-Mart. However, Reuters says that, while today may be the busiest day of the year in terms of store traffic, it does not mean that sales will soar for the season. Many people out there are taking advantage of bare-bone deals on which retailers are forfeiting a large share of profits, but may not be buying more than the essentials, or be willing to return to the stores when prices return to normal.  

[Editor’s note: the above is a cross post that originally appeared on Wall St. Cheat Sheet]