Stocks Ended Higher after Manufacturing, Jobs News

U.S. stocks ended modestly higher on Thursday, halting a three-day slide, after reports on jobless claims and manufacturing pointed to strength in the U.S. economy. The Dow Jones Industrial Average added 45.33 points, or 0.38%, to 11,868.81. The S&P 500 rose 3.93 points, or 0.32%, to 1,215.75. The Nasdaq Composite gained 1.70 points, or 0.07%, to 2,541.01.

The New York and Philadelphia regional Fed manufacturing surveys came in stronger in December, a sign of solid growth in the factory sector. The Philadelphia Federal Reserve Bank reported Thursday that its business outlook index rose to 10.3 from 3.6 in November. This is the highest level since April.

The number of Americans who filed requests for jobless benefits fell sharply last week to the lowest level since May 2008, indicating that a fragile U.S. labor market continues to heal. First-time applications for unemployment compensation declined by 19,000 to a seasonally adjusted 366,000, putting claims at the lowest level since the middle of the 2007-2009 recession.

The average rate on the 30-year fixed mortgage fell back down to 3.94 percent, the record low set earlier in the fall. Freddie Mac said Thursday the rate on the 30-year home loan fell from 3.99 percent the previous week. The average rate of 3.94 percent is the lowest rate ever, according to data from the National Bureau of Economic Research.

Research In Motion Ltd. reported a sharp drop in earnings for its third fiscal quarter on Thursday afternoon, in line with a pre -announcement by the company earlier this month. For the quarter ended Nov. 26, RIM net income of $265 million, or 51 cents per share, compared to net income of $911 million, or 1.74 cents a share, for the same period last year. Revenue slipped 6% to $5.17 billion. The company shipped 14.1 million smartphones during the quarter.

Morgan Stanley plans to eliminate 1,600 positions across the investment bank early in the first quarter of 2012 as it joins the chorus of financial firms cutting jobs amid poor business conditions. The layoffs, to take place globally across all of the firm’s job levels, would represent 2.6% of the 62,648 employees Morgan Stanley reported as of the end of the third quarter.

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