Stocks Opened Higher on Bank Earnings, Jobs

U.S. stocks started higher Thursday, helped by better-than-forecast results from Bank of America Corp., a drop in jobless claims, and improved confidence in Eurozone despite dowgrades. The Dow Jones Industrial Average lately rose 19.52 points, or 0.16%, to 12,598.47. The Nasdaq Composite gained 15.84 points, or 0.57%, to 2,785.55. The S&P 500 gained 4.47 points, or 0.34%, to 1,312.51.

Bank of America made $2 billion in the last three months of last year, reversing a loss from a year earlier. The bank said Thursday that it made 15 cents per share in the fourth quarter. For the year, the bank made $1.4 billion. It lost $2.2 billion in 2010.

The number of people seeking unemployment benefits plummeted last week to 352,000, the fewest since April 2008. Applications fell 50,000, the biggest drop in the seasonally adjusted figure in more than six years, the Labor Department said Thursday.

France and Spain sailed through their first long-term debt auctions since their credit ratings were downgraded by Standard & Poor’s, a sign that politicians and the central bank have at least temporarily stemmed the spread of Europe’s debt crisis.

The embattled euro zone cleared a major funding test on Thursday when Spain romped through a key bond sale, while signs pointed to only a mild recession for the 17-nation bloc.

Photography icon Eastman Kodak has filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection, as it seeks to boost its cash position and stay in business. Eastman Kodak Co. said early Thursday that it has secured $950 million in financing from Citigroup Inc., and expects to be able to operate its business during bankruptcy reorganization and pay employees.

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