NEW YORK (AP) — Strong earnings from FedEx, as well as word that new unemployment claims have dropped sharply, are helping Wall Street to send stocks higher. The Dow has been up as much as 1 percent in early trading.

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Labor Department says the number of people filing first time claims for unemployment benefits had dropped sharply, particularly compared to three months ago. New claims dropped last week to 366,000. That’s the lowest since May 2008.

NEW YORK (AP) — The nation’s biggest retail group says the holiday shopping season is looking brighter. It now looks for holiday sales in November and December to rise 3.8 percent. That’s up from the 2.8 percent rise forecast back in early October.

WASHINGTON (AP) — The average rate on the 30-year fixed mortgage has dropped to 3.94 percent. That matches the record low set earlier in the fall.

WASHINGTON (AP) — Senate leaders with both parties say agreement is close to extend the payroll tax cut, renewing unemployment benefits and averting a federal shutdown. Some 160 million Americans would get a sudden tax increase on Jan. 1 if the payroll tax cut were not renewed, and most government agencies would close this Saturday without agreement on spending legislation.