Stocks Opened Higher after Mixed Economic Reports

U.S. stocks opened modestly higher on Thursday, after mixed economic reports illustrated ongoing improvement in the labor market and lackluster consumer spending in January. The Dow Jones Industrial Average lately climbed 71.40 points to 13,023.47. The S&P 500 rose 7.86 points to 1,373.54. The Nasdaq Composite gained 19.34 points to 2,986.23.

U.S. claims for unemployment benefits edged down last week, holding near four-year lows, according to a government report that suggested the labor market was gaining momentum. The Labor Department said on Thursday that initial claims fell by 2,000 to a seasonally adjusted 351,000 in the week ended Feb. 25.

The Commerce Department said Thursday that personal income rose 0.3% in January after a 0.5% jump in December. Consumer spending edged up 0.2% after no movement at all in December.

Prospects for a strong recovery in the global economy darkened on Thursday as sputtering factory activity in Europe overshadowed more upbeat data from Asia, at a time when central banks are running out of policy options and reluctant to do more. Factory activity across Europe at best stagnated, and in Spain and Greece it contracted sharply, according to the latest purchasing managers’ indexes. Similar reports showed China and India growing, but at a more modest pace than in the recent past.

Crude-oil futures edged up Thursday,as worries that the Federal Reserve won’t launch fresh monetary stimulus belied market expectations of a boost to commodity prices. Benchmark U.S. light, sweet crude-oil futures for April delivery (NMN:CLJ2)  rose 16 cents to $107.23 a barrel in electronic trading.

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