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Overnight Markets: Wall Street advances on upbeat economic reports

Cyclicals were the day's top gainers, with financials gaining 2.1%, followed by energy up 1.1% and materials, up 0.9%.

Overnight Markets: Wall Street advances on upbeat economic reports

US stocks advanced on Thursday as better-than-estimated jobless claims, consumer confidence and leading indicators bolstered optimism in the world’s largest economy.

The Dow Jones industrial average was up 62 points, or 0.51%, at 12,170. The Standard & Poor's 500 Index was up 10 points, or 0.83%, at 1,254. The Nasdaq Composite Index was up 21 points, or 0.83%, at 2,599.

Weekly claims for jobless benefits declined to a 3-1/2-year low helping equities. And contributing to the optimistic mood, US consumer sentiment improved in December, hitting its highest level in six months.

A downward revision of the US Commerce Department's figures on third-quarter economic growth had little impact on stocks. The Commerce Department said the economy grew at a 1.8% annual pace in the third quarter, down from its prior estimate of 2%.

The index of US leading indicators rose more than estimated in November - a sign that the economy will keep growing in 2012.

Cyclicals were the day's top gainers, with financials gaining 2.1%, followed by energy up 1.1% and materials, up 0.9%.

General Electric jumped 3% and Exxon Mobil increased 1.4%. Among financials, Morgan Stanley added 6.5%. Citigroup gained 5.9%. Bank of America advanced 4.6%. JPMorgan Chase rose 3.5%.

Micron Technology jumped 15.7% as investors expected a potential 2012 rebound in long-stagnant memory chip demand and prices. Tibco Software climbed 8% after the business software maker forecast first-quarter revenue above estimates and said fourth-quarter profit and revenues soared.

Akamai Technologies surged 19% after agreeing to buy Cotendo to expand Internet-based and mobile services.

Elsewhere, First Solar climbed 7.4% as the largest maker of thin-film solar panels may attract takeover interest from GE or Siemens.

On the negative side, American Greetings slumped 21.1% after third-quarter profit dropped nearly 40%. Bed Bath & Beyond fell 6.3% after the home furnishings retailer reported third-quarter sales which were below expectations.

In Asia, stocks gained on Friday in afternoon session after upbeat US economic figures added to signs the world’s biggest economy is weathering Europe’s debt crisis.

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