Stocks Up on Europe Optimism

U.S. stocks gained Thursday, as investors opted for optimism on Europe’s troubles. The Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 21.57 points, or 0.2%, to 12,471.02. The S&P 500 advanced 3.02 points, or 0.2%, to 1,295.50, while the Nasdaq Composite gained 13.94 points, or 0.5%, to 2,724.70.

Mario Draghi on Thursday credited the European Central Bank’s December decision to provide a massive dose of long-term liquidity to the euro area’s troubled banks with tentatively helping to stabilize euro-zone debt markets as monetary policy makers moved to the sidelines after a flurry of activity the past two months.

Fixed mortgage rates fell once again to a record low, offering a great opportunity for those who can afford to buy or refinance homes. But few are able to take advantage of the historic rates. Freddie Mac said Thursday the average rate on the 30-year fixed mortgage fell to 3.89 percent.

Crude-oil futures fell 1% to close under $100 a barrel Thursday. Crude for February delivery  ended down $1.77, or 1.8%, to $99.10 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange.

Delta Air Lines Inc., US Airways Group Inc. and private equity firm TPG Capital are all separately mulling bids to acquire AMR Corp., the bankrupt parent company of American Airlines, The Wall Street Journal reported Thursday.

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