Jump in holiday retail sales pushes stocks higher

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By Associated Press

NEW YORK (AP) — Stocks extended a rally Wednesday on signs that consumers are spending more this holiday season.

Major retailers reported stronger sales for November in the latest encouraging signal on the economy. Stocks added to their gains in mid-morning trading after the National Association of Realtors said the number of people who signed contracts to buy homes jumped 10.4 percent in October.

A variety of retailers beat Wall Street expectations for sales last month including Costco Wholesale Corp., Target Corp. and Limited Brands Inc., the owner of Victoria's Secret. Teen retailer Abercrombie & Fitch Co. jumped 7.9 percent after reporting that its sales soared 32 percent.

"The consumer is strong and month after month retailing has been very strong," said Ryan Detrick, the chief technical strategist at Schaeffer's Investment Research. "If you take a step back it's clear that the U.S. economy continues to slowly expand."

The Dow Jones industrial average rose 73.30, or 0.7 percent, to 11,329.68. The Dow jumped 2.3 percent Wednesday, its biggest gain since Sept. 1, on signs that private employers are adding jobs.

The Standard and Poor's 500 index rose 8.88, or 0.7 percent, to 1,214.95. The Nasdaq composite index rose 15.98, or 0.6 percent, to 2,565.54.

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