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Dow Up Eight Days in Row

Stocks close mixed, but the Dow notches another gain after President Obama signed the jobs bill. Gregg Greenberg has The Real Story.



) -- The


finished higher for the eighth consecutive session, but the other major indices were hardly changed Thursday, as investors grappled with a raft of data.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average added 45.5 points, or 0.4%, to close at 10,779. The

S&P 500

lost less than a point, or 0.03%, to close at 1166, and the


lifted by 2 points, or 0.09%, to finish at 2391.

Investors seemed to take a step back after U.S. indices hit new yearly highs in the previous session, spurred by the

Federal Reserve's

decision Wednesday to keep interest rates low for an extended period.

"Anytime you have the prospect of low rates for a long time, that's a good signal that sales will be strong, which will in turn help profits," said Mike Schenk, a senior economist at Credit Union National Association. "It's conceivable that

Wednesday's market overemphasized the value of what the Fed did, but we think that overall, it's good news for the economy."

Despite sluggish trading, the day was packed with news. President Obama approved a

jobs bill that cleared the Senate with some bipartisan support on Wednesday. The package offers roughly $18 billion in tax breaks aimed at improving employment opportunities.

UBS analyst Timna Tanners sees the legislation as positive for certain materials companies because it extends funding on an expired highway-spending program that kept states from undertaking large-scale road projects.

"We foresee government spending supporting buy-rated

Martin Marietta Materials

(MLM) - Get Free Report


Vulcan Materials

(VMC) - Get Free Report

, and a 2010 highway spending program extension removes near-term uncertainty," Tanners said.

The debate over

health care reform raged on as House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer said the reform bill would save $1 trillion.

President Obama delayed an upcoming trip to Indonesia and Australia to focus on passing health care reform legislation.

Markets were also mulling comments from

Greek Prime Minister George Papandreou, who said the country's planned deficit cuts wouldn't be possible without financial aid.

Read on for details on the day's economic figures.

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The Economy

Initial weekly jobless claims declined by 5,000 claims to 457,000. Economists had been forecasting a slightly larger drop, to 455,000.

Meanwhile, February

consumer prices didn't change after rising 0.2% in January, according to the Labor Department. Economists had expected growth of 0.1%. Core CPI, which excludes volatile food and energy prices, rose 0.1%, as expected, after declining 0.1% in January.

"Inflation remained well contained in February, with both the consumer price index and the producer price index showing only minimal gains for the month," said PNC chief economist Stuart Hoffman. "The headline consumer price index was unchanged in February. Falling energy prices were offset by gains in medical care and used car prices."

Hoffman noted that housing also continues to drag down the index.

As expected, leading economic indicators rose 0.1% in February, after rising 0.3% in January, according to the Conference Board.

Business activity in the Mid-Atlantic states was much stronger than expected, according to the

Philadelphia Fed Index , which came in at 18.9 in March. Economists had anticipated a reading of 18, after February's level of 17.6.

"It seems like about a year ago we were starting to talk about green shoots and these are clearly green shoots," Mike Schenk of Credit Union National Association said of today's data. "The numbers that we saw today are overall good news. We think the employment situation will look a lot better when the next nonfarm payrolls number comes out for three reasons: First, because February's bad weather dampened job growth; second, because of Census hiring; and third, from old-fashioned job growth."

"Having said that, we don't think growth will be overly fast or overly strong. It'll be subdued growth," Schenk said, citing the high level of debt held by the average household and a renewed effort to rebuild wealth by increasing savings.

Read on for details on FedEx and Nike earnings and company news.

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Company News

After the close of trading,



reported a third-quarter loss of 61 cents a share and sales that rose to $366 million, beating its own guidance for sales in a range of $300 million to $320 million. Analysts had been looking for a third-quarter loss of 42 cents a share. The stock lost 12 cents, or 2.1%, to $5.53 in after-hours trading.

Transportation was the session's strongest sector with


(BA) - Get Free Report

topping the Dow followed by


(MMM) - Get Free Report



(DD) - Get Free Report




(FDX) - Get Free Report

beat analysts' estimates with a 76-cent fiscal third-quarter profit, and raised fiscal fourth-quarter guidance. Shares gained $2.87, or 3.2%, to $92.67. Shares of rival

United Parcel Service

(UPS) - Get Free Report

added $1.54, or 2.5%, to $64.42.

Financial and commodity-related sectors were the worst performing sectors, with


(AA) - Get Free Report


Bank of America

(BAC) - Get Free Report



(CAT) - Get Free Report

serving as the Dow's biggest laggards.


(C) - Get Free Report


Ford Motor

(F) - Get Free Report


Bank of America

were the most heavily traded shares on the

New York Stock Exchange

, which had a listed volume of 4.2 billion. The Dow, meanwhile, saw volume of 153 million, compared with an average of 200 million.

Sirius XM Radio's

(SIRI) - Get Free Report

stock lost 3.6% and seeing heavy trading on the Nasdaq after the exchange gave it a delisting warning.

Shares of

Trina Solar


lost $2.54, or 11%, to $20.54 as investors spurned the company's plans to sell 7.9 million shares in a secondary offering.

China Mobile

(CHL) - Get Free Report

, the world's largest mobile operator by users, recorded 2009 profit growth of 2.3% as margins increased nearly 26%.

Late Wednesday,


(NKE) - Get Free Report

reported third-quarter earnings that more than doubled from a year ago. The stock gained $3.78, or 5.3%, to $74.66 on Thursday.

Read on for details on trading in gold and energy markets.

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Commodities and the Dollar

The Energy Information Administration said natural gas storage levels for the week ended March 12 fell by 11 billion cubic feet, which was at the low end of an expected withdrawal range of 27 billion to 31 billion cubic feet, according to analysts polled by Platts.

Natural gas futures suffered. The April delivery contract lost 22 cents, or 5.1%, to settle at $4.09 per million British thermal units.

Elsewhere in

commodities markets, crude oil for April delivery shed 73 cents, or 0.9%, to settle at $82.20 a barrel, while the April

gold contract gained $3.30, or 0.3% to settle at $1,127.50 an ounce.


dollar was trading higher against a basket of currencies, with the dollar index up by 0.8%.

Read on for details on trading in Treasuries.

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The benchmark 10-year Treasury weakened 8/32, lifting the yield to 3.672%.

The two-year note fell 2/32, raising the yield to 0.956%. The 30-year bond weakened 9/32, raising the yield to 4.586%.

--Written by Melinda Peer in New York


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