Stocks Higher on Europe, Improved Sentiment

U.S. stocks finished higher Friday, with all three benchmark indexes scoring gains for the week  as European leaders agreed to closer fiscal ties and U.S. consumer confidence hit a six-month high. The Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 186.56 points, or 1.55%, to end at 12,184.26, up 1.4% for the week. The S&P 500 added 20.84 points, or 1.69%, to end at 1,255.19, gaining 0.9% for the week. And the Nasdaq Composite tacked on 50.47 points, or 1.94%, to close at 2,646.85, up 0.8% from a week ago.

Euro-zone leaders said on Friday they will forge closer fiscal ties via an inter-governmental accord that will likely be adopted by 26 European Union nations, leaving Britain isolated as the only member to definitively refuse to participate.

A gauge of consumer sentiment hit its highest level in six months, led by improved expectations, according to data released Friday by the University of Michigan and Thomson Reuters. The consumer-sentiment gauge reached 67.7 in the preliminary reading for December — the highest reading since June — compared with 64.1 in November.

About $2 billion worth of European bonds owned by MF Global were bought by billionaire investor George Soros’s family fund, the Wall Street Journal wrote on Friday. According to press reports, the board allowed the company’s exposure to European sovereign debt to increase by more than four times to $6.3 billion between late 2010 and shortly before it entered bankruptcy.

Crude-oil futures ended 1.1% higher on Friday, after spending most of the session wavering between small gains and losses as traders shied away from the markets ahead of the weekend and the uncertainties it brings. Crude for January delivery added $1.07 to settle at $99.41 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange. On the week, crude was 1.5% lower.

General Electric Co. said Friday it raised its quarterly dividend by 2 cents to 17 cents per share, the industrial and electrical giant’s fourth increase in two years. The Fairfield, Conn., company said the dividend is payable Jan. 25 to shareholders of record at the close of business Dec. 27.






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