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Dow surges on upbeat data...Sony releasing 'The Interview'...Consumer spending, confidence up

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NEW YORK (AP) — The Dow has broken through the 18,000 level and remains there this afternoon. Among the economic data encouraging investors is the government's latest estimate of third quarter growth. The 5 percent annual growth rate is the fastest since 2003. The Dow was close to 100 points in afternoon trading. The S&P 500 also has been higher since the open, but Nasdaq composite has dropped into negative territory.

NEW YORK (AP) — Sony Pictures Entertainment has announced a limited theatrical release of "The Interview" beginning Christmas Day. Sony had canceled the film's opening after hackers threatened violence and the nation's largest theater chains backed out of showing it. But a handful of independent theaters, including the Alama Drafthouse chain and Atlanta's Plaza Theater have agreed to show it. Sony has also been trying to secure digital partners to distribute "The Interview" through streaming or video-on-demand. Originally, the film was to open in about 3,000 theaters.

WASHINGTON (AP) — U.S. consumers have been spending at an increasing clip. The Commerce Department says consumer spending increased 0.6 percent in November, double October's gain. At the same time, a surge of hiring helped boost income 0.4 percent. The National Retail Federation has forecast that holiday sales will rise more than 4 percent this year over 2013. That would be the biggest gain in three years.

WASHINGTON (AP) — U.S. consumers are more optimistic about the economy than at any other time in the past eight years. The University of Michigan said Tuesday that its index of consumer sentiment has jumped to 93.6, buoyed by more jobs and falling gas prices. That's the highest reading since January 2007, nearly a year before the Great Recession officially began. The survey also found Americans are more optimistic about wage gains in the coming year.

WASHINGTON (AP) — The housing sector's recovery showed a hitch last month. The Commerce Department says new home sales slid 1.6 percent in November, the second straight monthly decline. New-home sales remain significantly below the annual rate of 700,000 seen during the 1990s. Despite steady price gains in recent years, roughly 8.7 million homeowners remain "underwater" on their mortgages.

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