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Stocks Finish Higher on Positive Data

Stocks record their sixth positive session in seven on a drop in initial jobless claims and a narrowing U.S. trade gap. Debra Borchardt provides The Real Story.

NEW YORK (

TheStreet

) -- Stocks rose on Thursday, marking the sixth positive session in the last seven on a better-than-expected decline in initial jobless claims and a narrowing U.S. trade gap.

The

Dow Jones Industrial Average

gained 28 points, or 0.3%, to 10,415. The

S&P 500

rose 5 points, or 0.3% higher at 1104 and the

Nasdaq

added 7 points, or 0.3% to 2236.

JPMorgan Chase

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and

AT&T

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led the index higher, while

Boeing

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and

McDonald's

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were among the Dow's losers during the afternoon trading session.

The Dow rose as high as 10,476 in the first half of the trading session but markets cooled off after a Labor Department official said that nine states did not file claims for the latest reporting week because of Labor Day and that the government relied on estimates from two states and approximated figures for the others, casting some doubt on the positive jobs report.

The Labor Department said early Thursday that the

number of first-time filers for unemployment benefits declined by 27,000 to 451,000 in the week ended Sept. 4, vs. economists' expectations for a milder dip to 470,000, according to Briefing.com.

Also the Department of Commerce's

trade balance report showed that the deficit narrowed to $42.78 billion in July from $49.8 billion previously. July's level was better than the $47.3 billion shortfall that economists had been expecting, according to Briefing.com.

"Markets seem to be seeing that the recovery is continuing at a modest pace and are discounting fears of a double-dip recession," said Joe Heider, principal at Rehmann Financial, earlier this morning. In addition to positive economic data out during the morning session, Heider also pointed to encouraging comments from Norway's finance minister.

"The finance minister of Norway runs the second-largest sovereign debt fund and was very optimistic about the debt situation, saying that he doesn't believe there will be a default -- and Norway holds a lot of Greek debt," Heider said.

"So not only is the U.S. still recovering, but Europe appears to be moving in a positive direction as well."

A group of economists did, however, make a slight downward revision to their 2010 growth expectations for the U.S., according to a

Reuters

report. The Blue Chip Economic Indicators survey of economists anticipates real gross domestic product growth of 2.7% year over year, which is 0.2 of a percentage point lower than last month and 0.6 of a point below June's estimate, the survey said.

Thursday's session also brought an influx of energy supply data since the weekly

crude oil inventory reports from both the American Petroleum Industry and the Energy Information Administration were delayed by a day because of the long holiday weekend.

The EIA said natural gas storage levels increased by 58 billion cubic feet in the week ended Sept. 3, landing it right in the middle of analysts' expectations for a rise in the range of 56 billion to 60 billion cubic feet, according to Platts.

The EIA also said crude oil inventories shed 1.8 million barrels in the week ended Sept. 3, which was larger than the decline of 730,000 barrels that analysts polled by Platts had been expecting but not as bullish as the 7.31-million barrel draw-down that the American Petroleum Institute reported late Wednesday. The Energy Department also said gasoline stockpiles fell by 243,000 barrels and distillates lost 400,000 barrels. Analysts had been projecting a decline of 820,000 barrels in gasoline stockpiles and an increase of 940,000 barrels in distillates.

Crude oil for October delivery reversed early gains as equities lost steam, settling at $74.25 a barrel. The October natural gas contract settled 4 cents lower at $3.768 per million British thermal units.

In corporate news,

Apple

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announced on Thursday afternoon that it had relaxed restrictions on application developers for its iPhones and iPads. That came as a flash of good news to

Adobe

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, as developers will now be permitted to use the company's flash software. Shares of Adobe jumped 12% to $32.86, while the stock of Apple ended flat at $263.07.

3M

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agreed to buy

Arizant

, a maker of surgical patient temperature management systems, for $810 million in cash. 3M's stock rose marginally higher to $82.95

According to a

Bloomberg

report,

Deutsche Bank

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is considering a share sale that would raise as much as 9 billion euros ($11.4 billion). Shares of the German bank's stock listed on the

New York Stock Exchange

lost 3.4% to $59.88.

The U.K. Financial Authority slapped

Goldman Sachs

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with a penalty of 17.5 million pounds ($26.92 million) for failing to disclose that it was being investigated for fraud in the U.S. Goldman's stock gained 1.1% to $149.15.

A subsidiary of

Johnson & Johnson

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, Janssen-Cilag AG, said it will stop selling Zevtera, a drug used to treat complex skin and soft tissue infections, in Switzerland as of Sept. 17. The company cited "unfavorable assessments of the marketing authorization applications." J&J shares were advancing 1.7% to $59.84.

Shares of

McDonald's

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fell 2.3% to $74.36 after it reported meager August sales, particularly across U.S. and Europe, where growth was 4.6% and 2.2%, respectively.

Shoe retailer

Skechers

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tumbled nearly 13% to $23.01 following a downgrade from Susquehanna Financial Group to neutral from buy.

United Air Lines' parent company,

UAL

(UAUA)

, saw its stock slip 5.1% to $20.93 despite reporting double-digit unit revenue gains in August as investors remained concerned about future demand amid a slowing economic recovery.

BMW

credited strong Asian demand -- particularly in China -- for a sales jump of 12.5% in August.

Elsewhere in commodity markets,

the December gold contract settled nearly $7 to $1,250 an ounce, as traders turned to stocks amid positive news flow.

The benchmark 10-year Treasury note weakened by 28/32, raising the yield to 2.755%.

Meanwhile, the greenback was trading marginally higher against a basket of currencies, with the dollar index up by 0.1%.

Global markets moved higher Thursday on eased concerns about the potentially risky holdings of European Union banks. Additionally, the

Bank of England opted to keep interest rates at the low level of 0.5% for the 18th consecutive month.

Hong Kong's Hang Seng inched 0.4% higher, while Japan's Nikkei gained 0.8%. The FTSE in London added 1%, and the DAX in Frankfurt rose 0.9%.

--Written by Melinda Peer and Shanthi Venkataraman in New York

.

Disclosure: TheStreet's editorial policy prohibits staff editors and reporters from holding positions in any individual stocks.