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U.S. financial markets are closed Thursday for Thanksgiving, and will close early on Black Friday.

Black Friday, Nov. 26, is the official start to the holiday shopping season, with many retailers — including Macy’s Inc. M, -7.12% and Walmart WMT, -0.54% — offering bargains for those looking for holiday gifts.

The Intercontinental Exchange Inc. ICE, -1.53% -owned New York Stock Exchange and the Nasdaq NDAQ, -0.45% will close at 1 p.m. Eastern on Friday, while the Securities Industry and Financial Markets Association recommends a 2 p.m. Eastern close for Treasury markets, such as those that trade the 10-year Treasury TMUBMUSD10Y, 1.560%. However, there’s no early closure for the markets on Wednesday, the day before Thanksgiving in the U.S.

The major U.S. exchange operators — the NYSE, American Stock Exchange and Nasdaq — initially called for a 2 p.m. Eastern close for the Friday after Thanksgiving in 1992, two hours earlier than the normal 4 p.m. closing bell. But the following year, exchanges opted to shutter markets three hours earlier, at 1 p.m.

Overall, trading activity on the Wednesday before Thanksgiving and the Friday afterward are usually a fraction of normal, non-holiday trading periods. The dearth of volume around the holiday makes sense, given that Thanksgiving is typically the busiest travel day of the year, according to the U.S. Department of Transportation.

On Black Friday, metals such as gold GC00, -0.15% will settle at 12:30 p.m. Eastern, and U.S. crude oil CL.1, -0.05% will settle at 1:30 p.m.

So, how does the market tend to perform during this holiday period? The folks at Bespoke Investment Group say that stock markets, such as the S&P 500 index SPX, -0.14%, have done fairly well. However, some strategists are predicting some degree of volatility that could knock the Nasdaq Composite COMP, +0.40% off its record perch and deepen a slump for the blue-chip Dow Jones Industrial Average DJIA, -0.75%.

Source: This post first appeared on http://marketwatch.com/

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