September factory orders increased 0.3% after a revised 0.1% rise in August, according to the Commerce Department. The Institute for Supply Management's services index for October suggested the service sector continues to grow. The index came in 52.9, marginally weaker than expectations, after a reading of 53 in September.
Overnight, a report said that weaker investment in Chinese real estate dragged down growth in China's services sector in October. Japan's Nikkei Average finished 2.25% lower, and Hong Kong's Hang Seng lost 2.49%.
Stocks extended Wednesday's rally. The market took a breather from a sharp selloff earlier in the week, with the help of better-than-expected U.S. jobs numbers and the Federal Reserve's indication that more monetary easing would follow if necessary.
Gold for December delivery gained $35.50, or 2.1%, to settle at $1,765.10 an ounce. In other commodities, the December crude oil contract jumped 1.7%, adding $1.56 to settle at $94.07 a barrel.Standard & Poor's recently lifted its 12-month target for the S&P 500 to 1360 from 1260, although it does not recommend boosting exposure to U.S. stocks yet because of lingering concerns in Europe. Late Thursday, AIG (AIG - Get Report) posted a loss of $4.1 billion, or $2.16 a share and an operating loss of $1.60 a share. Wall Street had projected a loss of 30 cents a share. The stock closed Thursday's session 1.8% higher at $24.63. LinkedIn (LNKD) reported a third-quarter loss of $1.6 million, or 2 cents a share late Thursday, and said revenue rose to $139.5 million from $61.8 million, previously. On an adjusted basis, the company earned 6 cents a share. Consensus estimates called for a loss of 4 cents on revenue of $127.6 million, according to Thomson Reuters. Ahead of its earnings report, the stock gained 3.6% to close at $87.50. NYSE Euronext (NYX) rose 6.1% to $27.o after it said third-quarter profit rose 54% to $186 million on strong trading volumes. NYSE is still in talks with European regulators to receive clearance for its $9 billion merger with Deutsche Boerse. -- Written by Chao Deng and Melinda Peer in New York.