Stock market gains in Asia and Europe signal positive start to 2011.
Mortgage rates dipped to 4.81 percent for a 30-year loan, down from 4.83 percent last week.
The momentum doesn't mean the economy is running full steam ahead. But the recent reports, including on consumer spending, suggest that the economic recovery may be gaining traction.
Now at an average price of $3 a gallon, gasoline could cost at least $3.50 a gallon by spring. Rising gas prices go hand in hand with higher oil prices, driven up by outlook for a stronger economy.
Profits have soared for seven consecutive quarters, but sky-high unemployment has remained essentially unchanged for the past year.
Surveys show that more consumers want to get a jump on Black Friday and shop on Thanksgiving Day. With retailers desperate to boost sales, an increasing number are staying open.
New homes: Sales tumbled in October while the median home price dropped to the lowest point in seven years.
The recession meant fewer Americans went abroad to study last year, and some countries sent fewer students to US colleges. But the number of Chinese students in the US increased by 30 percent.
Amid hearings on the cause of the Deepwater Horizon disaster, government scientists, academics, and those most affected by the Gulf oil spill are at odds over the extent of its effects.
Broadband service saw usage expand sevenfold this decade, but key minorities didn't catch up.