NEW YORK (AP) — Stocks mostly rose Friday on signs that consumers and businesses are feeling more confident about the economy.

The Commerce Department said retail sales rose 1.3 percent in November, more than double the increase analysts had expected and better than the 1.1 percent rise in October.

The report boosted hopes that consumers are starting to feel more comfortable opening their wallets after months of building up their savings. A recovery in consumer spending, a major component of U.S. economic activity, is seen as one of the key elements to sustained growth.

A separate report showing an increase in consumer confidence signaled that spending could continue to rise. The preliminary Reuters/University of Michigan consumer sentiment index increased more than expected in December.

In another welcome sign, the Commerce Department reported a 0.2 percent gain in business inventories in October, breaking a 13-month streak of declines. That's a signal that businesses expect consumers to step up their purchases.

Outside the U.S., news that China's exports improved last month provided more evidence that the global economy is recovering. Chinese exports posted their smallest drop in exports in a year last month, just 1.2 percent, following a 13.8 percent plunge in October. Retail sales and industrial production grew.

Hopes of an economic rebound have driven stocks higher for nine months but in the past month the pace of gains have slowed as investors look to lock in the year's double-digit gains as they face questions about whether the economy's recovery will continue.

Stephen Wood, chief market strategist at Russell Investments, said the day's reports help confirm that the economy is on the right track.

"We're going from the first global recession in 70 years to a tepid, but very real global growth story," he said.

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