Stocks Opened Higher on Claims Data

U.S. stocks opened higher on Thursday after an upbeat report on the labor market and oil prices rose. The Dow Jones Industrial Average lately added 109.11 points, or 0.62%, to 17,782.13. The S&P 500 was up 11.42 points, or 0.56%, to 2,052.93. The Nasdaq Composite gained 21.39 points, or 0.45%, to 4,738.10.

Fewer Americans than forecast filed jobless claims last week, hovering around levels that are typically associated with an improving job market. Applications for unemployment benefits increased by 11,000 to 278,000 in the week ended Jan. 31, from a revised 267,000 in the prior period, a Labor Department report showed Thursday in Washington.

Crude-oil futures extended gains Thursday. Brent crude rose $1.50, or 2.7%, to $55.66 a barrel on London’s ICE Futures exchange. On the New York Mercantile Exchange, light, sweet crude futures rose $1.06 a barrel, or 2.2%, to $49.51 a barrel.

The U.S. trade deficit in December widened sharply to its highest level since 2012 as a stronger dollar appeared to suck in imports and weigh on exports, which could see the fourth-quarter economic growth estimate revised lower. The Commerce Department said on Thursday the trade deficit jumped 17.1 percent to $46.6 billion, the largest since November 2012.

The productivity of U.S. workers dropped in the fourth quarter as employers boosted hours by the most in 16 years, making the cost of labor more expensive. The measure of employee output per hour decreased at a 1.8 percent annualized rate, after a revised 3.7 percent gain in the prior three months that was larger than previously estimated, a Labor Department report showed Thursday in Washington.

Drugmaker Pfizer Inc said it would buy Hospira Inc for about $15 billion to boost its portfolio of generic injectible drugs and biosimilars, or copies of biotech drugs. Pfizer offered $90 per share in cash, a 39 percent premium to Hospira’s closing stock price on Wednesday.

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