U.S. economy hopes boost stocks, oil

Fri Dec 23, 2011 4:51pm EST
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By Richard Leong

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Wall Street stocks rose on Friday and oil prices edged up as upbeat data reinforced a slightly better outlook for the U.S. economy, curbing a bid for safe-haven U.S. Treasury debt.

The euro was little changed, but was expected to face further weakness. Euro zone governments face large refinancing needs in early 2012, and investors say the region's leaders have not made much progress in dealing with their fiscal problems.

"The data itself has been modestly stronger in the fourth quarter, but nothing that changes the baseline slow-growth story," said Andrew Slimmon, managing director, Global Investment Solutions of Morgan Stanley Smith Barney in Chicago.

This cautious outlook could keep stocks and other growth-oriented assets from appreciating much above current levels.

"Ultimately I'm not looking for a risk-positive first quarter. The growth picture is too troubling," said Brian Dolan, chief currency strategist, at Forex.com in Bedminster, New Jersey.

The Dow Jones industrial average .DJI ended up 124.35 points, or 1.02 percent, at 12,294.00. The Standard & Poor's 500 Index .SPX closed up 11.33 points, or 0.90 percent, at 1,265.33. The Nasdaq Composite Index .IXIC finished up 19.19 points, or 0.74 percent, at 2,618.64.

The S&P finished up 3.7 percent for the week, breaking above its 200-day moving average and bringing its year-to-date result into positive territory. The Dow was up 3.6 percent on the week, and the Nasdaq closed up 2.5 percent on the week.

MSCI's world equity index .MIWD00000PUS rose 0.6 percent, but was on track to finish down 7.7 percent for the year.   Continued...