Stocks Little Changed amid Raft of Data

U.S. stocks were little changed in the early trading on Thursday despite a batch of better-than-expected economic reports, as ongoing ” fiscal cliff” uncertainties kept a lid on gains. The Dow Jones Industrial Average lately fell 22.50 points to 13,229.47. The S&P 500 index was off 2.06 points at  1,433.75. The Nasdaq Composite was down 8.11 points at 3,036.25.

The U.S. economy grew faster than previously estimated in the third quarter as exports and government spending provided a lift. Gross domestic product expanded at a 3.1 percent annual rate, the Commerce Department said in its third estimate on Thursday, up from the 2.7 percent pace reported last month.

First-time claims for unemployment benefits climbed 17,000 in the latest week, though to a level that suggests the U.S. labor market is continuing its steady but painfully slow improvement. The Labor Department said Thursday that first-time jobless claims rose to a seasonally adjusted 361,000 in the week ended Dec. 15, versus a slightly upwardly revised 344,000

Google Inc agreed to sell set-top TV box maker Motorola Home to Arris Group Inc for $2.35 billion in cash and stock, the companies said on Wednesday. The transaction is expected to close by the second quarter of 2013, subject to regulatory approvals.

Darden Restaurants’ (DRI) fiscal second-quarter net income fell 37 percent, as revamped menus and new ad campaigns failed to draw diners into its Olive Garden and Red Lobster chains. Darden Restaurants Inc. earned $33.6 million, or 26 cents per share, for the period ended Nov. 25. That’s down from $53.7 million, or 40 cents per share, a year ago. Revenue climbed 7 percent to $1.96 billion from $1.83 billion, meeting Wall Street’s forecast.

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