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While you were sleeping: Retail sales fail to inspire

Wall Street began the week flat as the start to the holiday sales season was mixed, leaving investors wary of placing too many fresh bets ahead of the November payrolls report on Friday.

On a positive note, US manufacturing surprisingly picked up speed last month. The Institute for Supply Management's index climbed to 57.3 in November, the highest since April 2011, and up from 56.4 in October.

Separately, Markit's final November US manufacturing PMI rose to 54.7 in November, from 51.8 the previous month.

"The economy is moving forward at a moderate to strong pace," Chris Rupkey, chief financial economist at Bank of Tokyo-Mitsubishi UFJ in New York, told Reuters. "This is additional evidence that the economic outlook is positive enough and expected to continue long enough and that the Fed might actually taper in December."

In afternoon trading in New York, the Dow Jones Industrial Average edged 0.04 percent higher, as did the Nasdaq Composite Index, while the Standard & Poor's 500 Index rose 0.21 percent.

Shares of eBay rose, last up 2 percent, as a report showed online spending on Black Friday climbed to a record, according to Bloomberg News.

However overall purchases at stores and websites fell over the weekend, in part reflecting steep discounts and investors opted to be more defensive with a slew of data scheduled over the next few days.

Equities have done well this year, and many believe there are further gains ahead.

"The story is still around the combination of easy monetary policies and expectations of growth into 2014," Bill O'Neill, the London-based head of UK Chief Investment Office Research at UBS Wealth Management, told Bloomberg News. "There is this belief that growth is coming towards us. Even if it's not imminent, it's on the horizon."

Europe's Stoxx 600 Index ended the day with a 0.3 percent decline from the previous close. The UK's FTSE 100 Index shed 0.8 percent, while France's CAC 400 slipped 0.2 percent. Germany's DAX barely budged from the previous close.

Here, the final euro-zone manufacturing PMI rose to 51.6 in November, higher than Markit's initial estimate of 51.5 and up from 51.3 in October, according to Markit Economics.

"The November manufacturing PMI surveys bring good news on the whole, but suggest there's still a lot to worry about in terms of the health of the eurozone economy," Chris Williamson, chief economist at Markit, said in a statement. "Overall, manufacturing across the region is enjoying its best performance for two-and-a-half years, but the pace of growth remains only modest."

"The most promising recovery signs are largely confined to northern countries, with strong growth being recorded in Germany, the Netherlands and Austria," Williamson said. "More southerly countries continue to disappoint, though, especially France and Spain, where renewed downturns are evident."

(BusinessDesk)