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Stocks Edge Higher Following Economic Data

By KEN SWEET

NEW YORK (AP) â¿¿ Positive news on the U.S. economy outweighed worries about Syria Thursday, sending the stock market higher for a second straight day.

The Dow Jones industrial average added 16.44 points, or 0.1 percent, to 14,840.95, while the Standard & Poor's 500 index rose 3.2 points, or 0.2 percent, to 1,638.17. The Nasdaq composite posted a bigger gain, rising 27 points, or 0.8 percent, to 3,620.30.

The Dow has gained 64 points over the past two days, not nearly enough to make up for its 170-point loss Tuesday as tensions over Syria rattled markets.

Verizon Communications was the biggest gainer among the blue chips after Britain's Vodafone confirmed it was in talks with Verizon to sell its 45 percent stake their joint venture, Verizon Wireless.

Verizon rose $1.26, or 2.7 percent, to $47.82. The U.S.-listed shares of Vodafone rose $2.39, or 8.1 percent, to $31.80.

While many fund managers said they're not looking to jump back into the market just yet, some individual companies are looking attractive again.

"If you're a long-term investor, it's an opportunity," said Richard Sichel, chief investment officer at Philadelphia Trust Co., which has $1.9 billion under management. He noted a new investment, the retail chain PetSmart, as an example.

Wayne Wilbanks, chief investment officer at the asset management firm Wilbanks, Smith & Thomas, said the market might have fallen too quickly. He also cautioned that the gains from the last two days may not last.

"Be very careful," Wilbanks said. "You haven't missed out on much if you've sat on the sidelines since May. I'm not putting a lot of money to work here."

Traders had two good economic reports to parse through Thursday. The U.S. economy grew at a 2.5 percent annual rate from April through June, much faster than previously estimated, the government said. Also, the Labor Department said the number of people who filed for unemployment benefits last week fell to 331,000, the fewest in five years.

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