THE WALL STREET WEEK AHEAD

Expectations about Black Friday, when Americans traditionally get serious about holiday shopping, could sway stocks this week if it looks like the economy will get a pop from consumer spending.

The outcome of talks to shape a bailout for Ireland could also move stocks, analysts said, but they cautioned that other highly indebted Eurozone countries could still be a source of worry.

Even though light volume will define trade during the holiday-shortened week of US Thanksgiving Day on Thursday, investors will watch to see if retail sales appear strong enough to give the market a Santa Claus rally.

The lighter-than-average volume expected next week could lead to exaggerated moves in the market after a week of sharp losses and advances.

Further gains would resume an uptrend that began at the end of the summer, with the Standard & Poor’s 500 index up 14 per cent since August 31. The market was little changed lastweek and suffered losses the week before.

“Bullish sentiment toward holiday sales is the most likely catalyst for the cyclical bull market to resume, so a lot rests on that,” said Chris Burba, short-term market technician at Standard & Poor’s in New York.

Retailers have been optimistic in their forecasts for holiday sales, and investors will want to see evidence to support those forecasts as worries about consumer spending weigh on the economic outlook.

At a rate of 9.6 per cent, unemployment is seen as one of the biggest drags on the US economy.

The day after Thanksgiving traditionally marks the start of the US holiday shopping season and is called Black Friday because retailers make enough sales to get their accounts into black ink.

Shoppers are expected to flood stores in search of bargains while retailers fight for sales.