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Stocks gain...Consumer confidence rises...Home prices climb

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NEW YORK (AP) — Stocks are sharply higher in early trading on Wall Street, bouncing back after two days of losses. This morning's gains have moved the Standard & Poor's 500 index back into the black for the year. Energy companies were among the biggest gainers as the price of crude oil rose.

WASHINGTON (AP) — An improving job market is lifting consumer confidence. The Conference Board says its consumer confidence index rose to 96.5 this month from November's revised 92.6. The business group says Americans were more optimistic about current conditions and about the future.

WASHINGTON (AP) — Steady job growth, low mortgage rates and tight inventories are helping to fuel a rise in U.S. home prices. The Standard & Poor's/Case-Shiller 20-city home price index rose 5.5 percent in the 12 months ending in October, up from a 5.4 percent pace in September. Home values have climbed at a roughly 5 percent pace during much of 2015.

PARIS (AP) — The price of diesel in France has slipped below 1 euro a liter for the first time since 2009, at the height of the financial crisis. The price drop crosses a symbolic barrier that is likely to complicate government efforts to encourage cleaner transportation. Many European consumers prefer diesel cars because they get better mileage and are cheaper to fuel and maintain. That's especially true in France because of decades-old tax breaks the government is reluctant to lift.

BOSTON (AP) — Campus groups that once fought separately for divestment from fossil fuels, prisons and other industries are forming new alliances at some U.S. colleges to push their demands collectively. Coalitions of different movements have formed this year at Wesleyan, Tufts and Columbia universities as well as the University of Pennsylvania. The collaborations have had some success. After students staged a joint sit-in this year, the president of Wesleyan agreed to endorse divestment from the prison industry.

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