Stocks Edge Higher after Economic Data

The U.S. stocks edged higher in the early trading on Thursday as investors weighed a surprise jump in weekly jobless claim against a smaller- than-expected drop in durable-goods orders. The Dow Jones Industrial Average lately rose 4.43 points, or 0.03%, at 16,202.84. The S&P 500 was up 0.66 points, 0.04%, at 1,845.82. The Nasdaq Composite gained 7.33 points, or 0.17%, at 4,299.39.

The number of people applying for U.S. unemployment benefits rose 14,000 last week to a seasonally adjusted 348,000, though the broader trend in applications remained stable. Initial claims for jobless benefits, a measure of layoffs, rose by 14,000 to a seasonally adjusted 348,000 in the week ended Feb. 22 from the previous week’s downwardly revised figure of 334,000, the Labor Department said Thursday.

Orders for long-lasting U.S. manufactured goods excluding transportation unexpectedly rose last month as did a gauge of business spending plans, but that will probably not change views that factory activity is slowing. The Commerce Department said on durable goods orders excluding transportation rose 1.1 percent, the largest increase since May, after falling 1.9 percent in December.

Freddie Mac (FMCC) said on Thursday it will soon send the U.S. Treasury a $10.4 billion dividend after posting a ninth straight quarterly profit. Freddie Mac will have paid about $81.8 billion in dividends in return for the $71.3 billion in support it received from the Treasury when it was bailed out during the financial crisis.

Best Buy returned to a profit in the fourth quarter and topped Wall Street expectations as it cut costs to offset declining sales. Net income after paying preferred dividends totaled $293 million, or 83 cents per share. That compares with a loss of $409 million, or $1.21 per share last year.

Sears Holdings Corp said on Thursday its sales fell in a “tough-to-terrible” holiday quarter but store closures helped narrow its losses and it made progress in generating more sales via the loyalty program it is betting its future on. overall sales fell 13.6 percent to $10.59 billion during the quarter.

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