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Stocks Rise With Hints of Economic Improvement

Wall Street and European markets gaining ground.

Stock markets posted gains on both sides of the Atlantic today as economic signposts pointed to some strengthening.

The S&P Retail rose just 0.1 percent, or 0.62 points, to 526.21, but the Dow Jones Industrial Average advanced a stronger 0.5 percent, or 61.91 points, to 12,169.65.

Retail gainers included Sears Holdings Corp., up 2.1 percent to $45.82; J.C. Penney Co. Inc., 1.7 percent to $35.19, and The TJX Cos. Inc., 1.2 percent to $64.24.

The gains were supported by the fourth-consecutive monthly gain in consumer sentiment from the Thomson Reuters/University of Michigan Surveys of Consumers.

The Index of Consumer Sentiment rose to 69.9 for this month, up from 64.1 percent in November. “The December gain primarily reflected more positive expectation for the economy in 2012,” according to the joint report. “Importantly, consumers more frequently reported hearing news about employment gains in the December survey. Unfortunately, consumers did not assess their personal finances more positively, with recent income declines being reported twice as frequently as income increases.”

On European markets, the FTSE 100 in London closed up 1.3 percent at 5456.97, the CAC 40 in Paris ended the day up 1.4 percent at 3071.80, the DAX in Frankfurt finished up 1.1 percent at 5852.18 while the FTSE MIB in Milan ended up 1.4 percent at 15027.44.

Investors were buoyed by factors including relatively optimistic U.K. data from Britain’s Office of National Statistics. The organization said Thursday that the U.K. economy had grown by 0.6 percent in the three months to September, rather than the 0.5 percent that was originally estimated. Added to that, the Italian senate passed a vote Thursday approving Italian Prime Minister Mario Monti’s austerity measures, which include spending cuts and tax rises.

Most fashion and luxury stocks ended the day up. Among those that rose the most were ASOS, up 4.9 percent at 12.21 pounds, Hugo Boss, which closed up 3.2 percent at 55.45 euros, Carrefour, which finished up 2.5 percent at 16.99 euros and Safilo Group, up 3.6 percent at 4.97 euros. The few that fell included French Connection, down 4.4 percent at 44 pence and Yoox, down 4.4 percent at 8.38 euros.

The euro traded at $1.30 Thursday against the dollar, while the pound traded at $1.56.