Stocks Started with Slight Gains on Data

U.S. stocks opened with slight gains on Wednesday as the absence of a deal by international lenders on emergency aid for Greece was offset by initial U.S. jobless claims that came in as expected. The Dow Jones industrial average lately was up 20.55 points, or 0.16 percent, at 12,809.06. The Standard & Poor’s 500 Index eked a gain of 2.20 points, or 0.16 percent, to 1,390.01. The Nasdaq Composite Index added 8.30 points, or 0.28 percent, to 2,924.98.

The number of Americans filing new claims for jobless benefits fell last week but remained elevated due to superstorm Sandy, a sign the storm is proving to be a substantial disruption to the labor market. Initial claims for state unemployment benefits dropped 41,000 to a seasonally adjusted 410,000, the Labor Department said.

A separate report showed U.S. manufacturing grew in November at its quickest pace in five months, bolstered by a rise in domestic demand. Financial information firm Markit said its U.S. “flash,” or preliminary, manufacturing Purchasing Managers Index rose to 52.4 from a three-year low of 51.0 in October. A reading above 50 indicates expansion.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel said on Wednesday she sees a chance for a deal to release emergency aid for Greece at a meeting of European finance ministers on Monday, but rejected the idea that big bold actions could solve Europe’s crisis overnight.

Hostess Brands Inc will proceed with a plan to go out of business after the maker of Twinkie snack cakes said last-minute talks with striking workers broke down on Tuesday. Hostess and its striking bakers union were pressed by New York Bankruptcy Judge Robert Drain into mediation to try to end the walkout and save the company and its 18,500 jobs. Drain acted as a mediator during the private talks.






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