Stocks Opened Higher on Strong Consumer Data

U.S. stocks opened higher on Monday after data showed Americans spent more than expected last month. The Dow Jones Industrial Average lately rose 178.76 points to 11,463.30. The Standard & Poor’s 500 Index gained 20.57 points to 1,197.37. The Nasdaq Composite Index added 48.88 points to 2,528.73.

Americans spent more money than they took in July — largely on auto purchases — as the personal savings rate fell, the government reported Monday. The income of U.S. workers rose 0.3% in July, but spending climbed an even faster 0.8%, the Commerce Department said.

President Barack Obama has chosen labor economist Alan Krueger for a top administration post as the White House scrambles for solutions to boost a fragile economy with the 2012 election looming.

Hiring by small businesses slowed in August and employers reduced hours, an independent survey showed on Sunday, suggesting the recent stock market turmoil may have dampened job creation. Intuit, a payrolls processing company, said small businesses added 35,000 jobs after increasing employment by 40,000 in July.

Oil rises on strong consumer spending numbers. Benchmark West Texas Intermediate crude on Monday rose $2.10, or 2.5 percent, to $87.49 per barrel in morning trading nin New York. Brent crude rose 75 cents to $112.11 in London.

The dollar softened in thin trade Monday, undercut by rising investor appetite for risk after U.S. Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke on Friday signaled no immediate round of additional stimulus but left options open. The dollar index which measures the greenback against a basket of six other currencies, rose to 73.836, from 73.825 in North American trading late Friday.

Greece’s second and third largest lenders, Eurobank and Alpha Bank, on Monday announced plans to merge in order to better withstand the country’s acute financial crisis. The widely anticipated move would create Greece’s biggest bank, and will see a euro500 million ($720 million) investment from a Qatari investment fund, Paramount Services Holding Ltd., officials from the two banks said.

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