Stocks Open Up after Jobless Claims Data

U.S. stocks opened higher on Thursday, following better-than-expected jobless claims. The Dow Jones Industrial Average lately rose 57.96 points, or 0.38%, to 15,498.19. The S&P 500 gained 7.93 points, or 0.45%, at 1,759.57. The Nasdaq Composite was up 21.10 points, or 0.53%, at 4,032.65.

The number of Americans filing new claims for unemployment benefits fell more than expected last week, in a boost to the labor market outlook and the broader economy. Initial claims for state unemployment benefits declined 20,000 to a seasonally adjusted 331,000, the Labor Department said.

The trade gap probably rose a bit in December but is expected to remain near its recent low. Economists polled by MarketWatch forecast the deficit to widen to $36 billion from $34.3 billion in November.

General Motors Co posted a weaker-than-expected fourth-quarter profit on Thursday as results in North America, Asia and South America disappointed. Net income rose to $913 million, or 57 cents a share, from $892 million, or 54 cents a share, in the year-earlier quarter.

AOL Inc. (AOL) said its fourth-quarter profit edged 0.8% higher, while revenue climbed 13%, driven primarily by stronger global advertising revenue. AOL posted a profit of $36 million, or 43 cents a share, up from $35.7 million, or 41 cents a share, a year earlier. Revenue rose 13% to $679 million.

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