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Stocks Finish With Mild Gains

The four-week moving average was 368,000, an increase of 1,500 from the previous week's revised average of 366,500.

Continuing claims for the week ended Oct. 13 came in at 3.254 million, a decrease of 2,000 from the prior week's upwardly revised level of 3.256 million.

Economists, on average, were expecting initial jobless claims of 370,000 and continuing claims of 3.255 million.

"While layoffs have not budged much, the labor market continues to suffer from lackluster hiring. At least in part, the latter is probably being held back by economic policy uncertainty emanating from Washington D.C.," remarked economists in an RBS client report.

Durable-goods orders rose 9.9% in September after a decline by an upwardly revised 13.1% in August.

Excluding the transportation component, orders increased 2% versus a downwardly revised 2.1% fall the prior month.

On average, economists expected durable goods orders to rise 7.1% in September and 0.8% when factoring out the transportation component.

"This is a pretty disappointing duo all things considered, with claims revised higher for the nonfarm payrolls survey week. But it's the components to durable goods which is a real disappointment with drops to the core orders and shipments," said David Ader, strategist at CRT.

"Bizarrely, even though September's durable goods report shows an above-consensus 9.9% m/m rebound in orders, the overall report is a disappointment that signals third-quarter GDP growth was weaker than previously thought," said Capital Economics in emailed commentary following the release.

The latest U.S. housing data wasn't a boon to sentiment either with the National Association of Realtors reporting that its pending home sales index rose by a smaller-than-expected 0.3% in September after falling 2.6% in August amid a decline in the Midwest by 5.8%.

Economists on average thought that pending home sales would increase 2.1% in September.

"Overall, an uninspired housing sector report, but one that continues to suggest some positive momentum," said Ian Lyngen, strategist at CRT.

Across the pond, the U.K. Office for National Statistics said the region came out of a recession in the third quarter, logging more robust-than-anticipated growth of 1% as the service sector got a boost from the London Olympics.

China's Ministry of Industry and Information Technology said that the country's factory output may speed up in the fourth quarter versus the third quarter.

The FTSE in London finished flat and the DAX in Germany closed up 0.10%. The Nikkei Average in Tokyo closed up 1.13% on Thursday. Hong Kong's Hang Seng Index finished up 0.21%.

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