This is the last full trading week of 2011, and it’s been a good one.
Encouraging economic reports led stocks to higher ground Thursday. The Dow rose 62 points, or 0.5%, to close at 12,170. The index has risen 409 points over the previous three days and it's up 5% this year.
The S&P 500 was up 10 points, while the Nasdaq surged 21 points Thursday. Both indices are lower for 2011.
Futures trading suggests a positive open this morning. International stock markets rose, and crude oil prices hit $100 a barrel on signs the U.S. economy is improving.
While trading volume is expected to once again be light ahead of the holidays. Congress will vote on the two-month extension to payroll tax cuts later this morning, this after House Republicans caved to demands by the White House and Democrats last night for the short-term extension of the tax cuts.
Unemployment benefits and some Medicare savings for doctors are also included in the extension.
Research firm The NPD Group says consumers are taking nearly a third of their photos and videos with smartphones now. That's hurting demand for the traditional point and shoot camera.
The NPD Group finds that 27% of people shot video or took pictures with a smartphone this year, up from 17% last year. While basic digital camera sales are struggling, sales of pricey cameras with detachable lenses and 10x optical zooms are up between 12-16%.
The hot online shopping season is apparently too hot to handle for some retailers. Stella Service -- a company that rates online customer service from web download speeds to the time it takes retailers to answer customer calls-- says only six of the largest 25 retailers in the nation got top marks for Black Friday weekend. They include Amazon (AMZN), Sears (SHLD), Macy's (M), LL Bean, Avon (AVP) and Overstock.
It's more than just the holiday shopping season. It's also the holiday shoplifting season. During the four weeks leading up to Christmas, an estimated $1.84 billion in merchandise will be stolen. The Global Retail Theft Barometer says that's up about 6% from the same time last year.