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Wall Street surges on holiday retail optimism; Dow soars over 300 points

Spencer Platt / Getty Images

Traders work on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange.

By msnbc.com news services

Wall Street soared at Monday’s opening bell, as investors cheered a strong start to the U.S. holiday shopping season.

The Dow Jones industrial average was lately up over 300 points.

Initial reports show a record number of shoppers visited stores and websites during the four-day holiday weekend. That's welcome news with consumer spending accounting for about 70 percent of U.S. economic activity.

Markets in Europe were also up sharply amid signs that European leaders were making progress toward resolving the continent's debt crisis. Jitters about Europe contributed to last week's nearly 5 percent drop in U.S. stock indexes.

Monday’s gains also represent a rebound from the prior week when Wall Street suffered its worst week in two months. The lack of a credible solution to Europe's debt crisis has kept investors away from risky assets and downgrades of Belgium and Hungary added to the gloom.

Last week, the U.S. market fell 4.7 percent, giving back almost two-thirds of its gains in October, its best month in 20 years. CNBC said the U.S. stock market saw its biggest percentage loss for a Thanksgiving week since 1932.

In economic news, the Commerce Department said new homes perked up in October, rising a modest 1.3 percent.

The Associated Press and Reuters contributed to this report.