Wall Street gained overnight as stronger-than-anticipated US retail sales bolstered confidence in the strength of the American economy, and corporate profits.

In midday trading in New York, the Dow Jones Industrial Average climbed 1.2 per cent, the Standard & Poor's 500 Index added 1.3 per cent, while the Nasdaq Composite Index rose 1.5 per cent.

Gains in shares of Exxon Mobil and those of Home Depot, recently up 2.6 per cent and 2.4 per cent respectively, led the Dow higher. At midday, all stocks in Dow were trading higher from the previous day.

US retail sales rose a better-than-expected 0.7 per cent in November, following an upwardly revised 0.5 per cent in October, according to Commerce Department data.

Advertisement

"The consumer is doing pretty well," Thomas Simons, an economist at Jefferies in New York, who predicted a 0.5 per cent gain in retail sales, told Bloomberg News. "Any money consumers are saving from lower petrol prices is being deployed elsewhere. The broad-based increase in sales is quite encouraging."

The data helped bolster the outlook for US growth.

"It provides a bit of a boost to fourth-quarter growth estimates," Dan Greenhaus, chief strategist at BTIG in New York, told Reuters. "We expect the lower petrol price boost to continue into next year's first half and with an improving jobs market, GDP should be well-supported in coming quarters."

Separately, jobless claims fell by 3,000 to 294,000 in the week ended December 6, a Labor Department report showed.

While US energy stocks including Exxon Mobil rose as investors found value following their recent slump, oil extended its decline and may continue to slide.

"We may see some technical bounces, but it is too soon to speak of a sustainable price recovery," Carsten Fritsch, analyst at Commerzbank, told Reuters. Commerzbank on Thursday downgraded its 2015 Brent price forecast to US$73 a barrel from US$82.

Shares of Staples soared, last up 8.9 per cent, after Starboard Value disclosed a 5.1 per cent stake in the company. Starboard also lifted its stake in Office Depot to about 10 per cent, from 8.6 per cent.

In Europe, the Stoxx 600 Index inched lower from the previous close to end the session at 339.31. Earlier in the day, the index had risen as much as 0.3 per cent and slid as much as 0.8 per cent, according to Bloomberg. France's CAC 40 Index slipped 0.05 per cent, while the UK's FTSE 100 Index fell 0.6 per cent, Germany's DAX Index gained 0.6 per cent.

Advertisement

Greece's benchmark stock index slumped 7.4 per cent, extending its drop to more than 20 per cent this week amid concern potential elections could hand control to the Syriza party, which is opposed to the country's bailout deal from the European Union and the International Monetary Fund.