Stocks Manage to Close Higher

As BP faced the heat, investors absorbed disquieting reports on manufacturing and jobs. Gregg Greenberg has The Real Story.
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NEW YORK (

TheStreet

) -- Stocks drifted below the flat line for much of Thursday's session as Congress grilled

BP CEO Tony Hayward . But after spending the day under pressure from dispiriting

regional manufacturing data and an unexpected rise in

initial weekly jobless claims, stocks managed to squeeze out a marginal gain in the last few minutes of trading.

The

Dow Jones Industrial Average

closed 25 points higher, or 0.2%, at 10,434. The

S&P 500

added 1 point, or 0.1%, at 1116, and the

Nasdaq

also finished a point, or 0.1% ahead, at 2,307.

Jim Baird, chief investment strategist at Plante Moran Financial Advisors, said macroeconomic releases on Thursday underscore the difficulty that the economy has been having in turning that all-important corner.

"The core inflation rate remains uncomfortably low," Baird said, pointing to May core inflation growth of 0.1%. "The economy may be expanding, but at a pace that isn't inspiring.

"Today's weaker-than-expected initial jobless claims number demonstrates that the economy just continues to struggle to get over the hump and move toward a more constructive environment for employment expansion, income growth and improving sentiment," he said.

Earlier, markets seemed to take heart in news that

Spain raised nearly $4.3 billion in an oversubscribed auction of 10-year and 30-year bonds.

Overseas on Thursday, Hong Kong's Hang Seng increased 0.4% while Japan's Nikkei fell 0.7%. The FTSE in London was climbed 0.3% higher, while the DAX in Frankfurt rose 0.5%.

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The Economy

The Labor Department said initial jobless claims unexpectedly rose by 12,000 to 472,000 in the week ended June 12. Last week's level was upwardly revised to 460,000 from 456,000. The report disappointed economists, who had been projecting a decline of 6,000 claims, according to

Briefing.com

.

In a separate report, the Department of Labor said prices at the consumer level fell 0.2% in May after declining 0.1% in April. Stripping out volatile food and energy costs, the core index inched 0.1% higher in May, compared with no change in April. Economists had been expecting only a 0.1% slip in the May consumer price index, while the core level's uptick met forecasts, according to

Briefing.com

.

Manufacturing activity in the Philadelphia region in June was much weaker than expected as the Philly Fed survey came in at 8, after a reading of 21.4 in May. Economists had been expecting a reading of 20 in June, according to

Briefing.com

.

The Conference Board's leading indicators report, meanwhile, largely met expectations with May growth of 0.4% after remaining unchanged in April. Economists had been looking for an uptick of 0.5%.

The Energy Information Administration said natural gas storage levels gained 87 billion cubic feet in the week ended June 11. The addition was just short of the range of 88 billion to 92 billion cubic feet that analysts polled by Platts had been expecting.

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>>Company News

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Company News

On the Dow,

Alcoa

(AA) - Get Report

,

Home Depot

(HD) - Get Report

and

American Express

(AXP) - Get Report

were the session's biggest laggards, while

Travelers

(TRV) - Get Report

,

Procter & Gamble

(PG) - Get Report

and

Caterpillar

(CAT) - Get Report

put in the best performance.

BP

(BP) - Get Report

, shares traded 0.4% lower at $31.71. According to

CNBC

, the company may be considering a corporate debt offering aimed at raising up to $10 billion. On Wednesday, BP agreed to a number of concessions including the

suspension of its dividend for the rest of the year.

Shares of

Kroger

(KR) - Get Report

rose 3.5% after the grocery chain exceeded analysts' estimates for earnings of 54 cents a share with a first-quarter profit of 58 cents.

Sino Clean Energy

(SCEI)

saw its stock take a hit after the Chinese coal-water slurry fuel company said it plans to offer up to $35 million in common stock to expand its CWSF production capacity in China. The stock lost 9.1% at $7.27.

Shares of

J.M. Smucker

(SJM) - Get Report

gained 6.6% after the company topped analysts' fourth-quarter expectations and issued full-year profit guidance that exceeded Wall Street's estimates.

Smithfield Foods

(SFD)

beat analysts' fourth-quarter expectations and issued a cautiously optimistic outlook.

Credit Suisse downgraded

DryShips

(DRYS) - Get Report

to neutral from outperform, citing near-term uncertainty surrounding its deepwater oil-drilling business.

Qualcomm

(QCOM) - Get Report

is facing fresh allegations of anticompetitive conduct in Europe.

AOL

(AOL)

was nearing a deal to sell its social-networking site

Bebo

to a private investment firm for a price well under AOL's purchase price, according to a

Wall Street Journal

report.

>>Overview

>>The Economy

>>Commodities and the Dollar

>>Treasuries

Commodities and the Dollar

Following the EIA supply report, the July natural gas contract added 18 cents to settle at $5.16 per million British thermal units. Meanwhile, crude oil for July delivery fell 88 cents to settle at $76.79 a barrel.

Elsewhere in commodity markets, the August gold contract settled $18.20 higher, at $1,248.70 an ounce.

The dollar was trading lower against a basket of currencies, with the

dollar index down by 0.5%.

>>Overview

>>The Economy

>>Company News

>>Treasuries

Treasuries

The benchmark 10-year Treasury was gaining 18/32, diluting the yield to 3.200%.

The two-year note was up 2/32, weakening the yield to 0.710%. The 30-year bond was increasing 28/32, dropping the yield to 4.135%.

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

.

>>Overview

>>The Economy

>>Company News

>>Commodities and the Dollar