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Morning Outlook

Stocks Look to Head into Christmas on Strong Note

Morning OutlookFOXBusiness

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.

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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 (NASDAQ:AMZN), Sears (NASDAQ:SHLD), Macy's (NYSE:M), LL Bean, Avon (NYSE: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.

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