The Commerce Department reported this morning that U.S. retail sales jumped 1.3% in November led by sales in autos, gasoline and electronics. Excluding auto and gasoline sales, core retail sales rose by 0.6%.

This is a positive economic sign amid the holiday shopping season, as reported by AFP . The strength across most retail sectors should buoy investors’ confidence. The SPDR S&P Retail ETF (NYSE: XRT) is up more than 1% so far this morning (For more stories on the retail sector, see our retail category).

In addition, the Reuters/University of Michigan preliminary index of consumer sentiment rose for December rose to 73.4, from 67.4 in November and above estimates. The measure of current conditions, which tells us whether consumers think it’s a good time to buy big-ticket items, jumped to 79.1 in December. This is up from 68.8 in November and is the highest reading since March 2008. Improved sentiment may help fuel spending and sustain the recovery into 2010, reports Vincent Del Giudice for Bloomberg. The index of expectations for six months from now, which more closely projects the direction of consumer spending, increased to 69.7 from 66.5.

The U.S. dollar rose to a one-month high against other major currencies today as gains in retail sales and consumer sentiment increased speculation that the Federal Reserve will raise interest rates next year. In recent weeks, strong U.S. economic data has led to positive reactions in the U.S. dollar, reported Ben Levisohn and Ye Xie for Bloomberg. The dollar index touched its highest level since Nov. 3. The PowerShares DB U.S. Dollar Index Bullish (NYSE: UUP) is up about 1% this morning. (For more stories on currency ETFs, please see our currency ETFs category).

Goldman Sachs (NYSE: GS) moved to defuse public outrage over their compensation practices. Susanne Craig of the Wall Street Journal reports that Goldman’s top 30 executives will receive no cash bonuses for 2009 despite the firm’s expected record profits. However, the changes are only for 2009 and will not affect the more than 31,000 other Goldman Sachs employees. The SPDR Select Sector Fund – Financial (NYSE: XLF) is virtually unchanged currently. (For more stories on the financial sector, please see our financial category).

Tony D’Altorio contributed to this article.

The opinions and forecasts expressed herein are solely those of Tom Lydon, and may not actually come to pass. Information on this site should not be used or construed as an offer to sell, a solicitation of an offer to buy, or a recommendation for any product.

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