Wholesale inventories for November also surprised the market, rising 1.5%. Economists had expected a 0.2% dip from October's level.
Earlier, the Eurostat said November's unemployment rate in the 16-nation eurozone rose to the highest level since August 1998 at 10%, up marginally from 9.9% in October.
The FTSE in London was up by 0.1% and the DAX in Frankfurt was up 0.3%. In Asia, Hong Kong's Hang Seng was up 0.1% and Japan's Nikkei was higher by 1.1%.
The U.S. dollar was trading lower against a basket of currencies, with the dollar index down 0.6%.In commodities markets, the February gold contract settled at $1,138.90 an ounce after adding $5.20, while crude oil for February delivery gained 9 cents to settle at $82.75 a barrel. Package shipper UPS (UPS), which is considered to be an important economic indicator because it moves U.S. and global GDP through its system, raised its fourth-quarter guidance to between 73 cents and 75 cents a share, citing improved shipping volumes. Its stock rose $2.76, or 4.8%, to $60.17. The UPS news, combined with a strengthening railroad sector, helped take the entire transportation realm higher, as the Dow Jones Transportation Average advanced 2.1%. Shares of Worthington Industries (WOR) surged 8%, adding $1.28 to $17.35 on two separate upgrades that cited higher steel prices and improving volumes. Stocks of steel companies rose on the news with AK Steel Holding (AKS) and United States Steel (X) up by 9.3% and 7.3%, respectively. Investment bankers at Bank of America (BAC) are likely to get bonuses that are similar to 2007 levels, according to The Wall Street Journal. Education company Apollo Group (APOL) reported higher first-quarter earnings on improved enrollment rates, but shares slipped after the company said the Department of Education has been looking into its financial aid policies. The stock fell $3.44, or 5.4%, at $60.50. --Written by Melinda Peer and Sung Moss in New York.
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