) -- Stocks closed higher Thursday, as news that the international trade gap narrowed in October appeared to outweigh listless initial jobless claims data.


Dow Jones Industrial Average

closed higher by 69 points, or 0.7%, to 10,406. The

S&P 500

rose 6 points, or 0.6%, at 1102 and the


added 7 points, or 0.3%, to 2191.

A downbeat financial sector dragged on the indices for much of the day, as the KBW Bank Index went lower by 0.9% near the closing bell. Dow component

Bank of America

(BAC) - Get Report

shed 1.2%, though

JPMorgan Chase

(JPM) - Get Report

finished just higher by 0.2% .

>>Five Safe Mid-Cap Stocks to Own

Investors continue to keep an eye on


(C) - Get Report

in anticipation of

an announcement regarding its exit strategy from the U.S. government's Troubled Asset Relief Program. Bank of America said it completed its

TARP payback on Wednesday.

Retail and consumer discretionary names, on the other hand, bested the broader market. The

Retail HOLDRs

(RTH) - Get Report

ETF and the

S&P Retail Index

climbed higher by 1.4% each.

Walt Disney

(DIS) - Get Report



(WMT) - Get Report



(SBUX) - Get Report

TST Recommends

shares gained 3.1%, 1.2% and 4.8%, respectively, today.


(COST) - Get Report


earnings met expectations and same-store sales were slightly higher. Investors sent shares modestly higher by 0.1%.

The international trade gap narrowed in October, coming in at $32.9 billion and raising expectations for stronger economic growth in the fourth quarter. The number was better than economists' expectations for a deficit of $36.8 billion and an improvement from September's downwardly revised estimate of $35.7 billion.

"Output growth is clearly the most important driver of employment," said Deutsche Bank analyst Peter Hooper, who expects a stronger increase in activity during this recovery to result in better job prospects than previous jobless recoveries.

The improved trade data helped mitigate disappointment from

initial jobless claims

that came in slightly higher than expected at 474,000, compared with the prior week's level of 457,000 claims. Continuing claims, however, fell to 5.16 million, an improvement from 5.47 million previously. Economists had expected continuing claims of 5.45 million.

The Dow rebounded after losing about 20 points on results from the Treasury's $13 billion auction of 30-Year Bonds. Indirect bidders took only 40.2% and the offering had a high yield of 4.520% with a bid-to-cover ratio of 2.45. Bond prices dropped with the 10-Year Note down 13/32, raising yields to 3.48%.

The dollar strengthened Thursday afternoon as the Dollar Index rose nearly 0.1%.

Gold prices were higher

Thursday after losing nearly 2% during Wednesday's trading session. The most actively traded February contract settled at $1,126.20 an ounce after adding $5.30.

Oil prices slipped Thursday afternoon. The January oil contract finished lower by 13 cents to settle at $70.54 a barrel.

Overseas, Hong Kong's Hang Seng declined 0.2%, and Japan's Nikkei fell 1.4%. The FTSE in London was up by 0.8%, and the DAX in Frankfurt rose by 1.1%.

In the ongoing debate over executive compensation,

Goldman Sachs

(GS) - Get Report

took a firm stance, announcing on Thursday afternoon that its 30-member management team would receive its year-end bonuses in stock that must be held for five years.

Shares of



received a

chilly reception from the market on Thursday. Shares fell 0.6%.

In earnings news, network and telecommunications equipment company


(CIEN) - Get Report

posted an adjusted fiscal fourth-quarter loss of 12 cents a share. Shares slumped 11.4% today.

National Semiconductor


shares fell off ahead of a second-quarter earnings announcement scheduled for release after the closing bell. Analysts polled by Thomson Reuters expect the semiconductor concern to report earnings of 14 cents a share.


Eli Lilly

(LLY) - Get Report

said it

expects earnings growth next year as it guided for 2010 earnings between $4.65 and $4.85 a share, compared with the profit of $4.74 that analysts have been expecting. The stock drooped 4.2%, losing $1.54 to $35.02.

--Written by Melinda Peer and Sung Moss in New York