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The close: Commodity producers, financials drive Dow, TSX higher Add to ...

Stocks rose on Thursday, driven by decent U.S. economic data, rising commodity prices and a warm reception to Canadian bank earnings.

The Dow Jones industrial average closed at 12,980.30, up 28.23 points or 0.2 per cent. The broader S&P 500 closed at 1,374.09, up 8.41 points or 0.6 per cent. In Canada, the S&P/TSX composite index closed at 12,723.46, up 79.45 points or 0.6 per cent.

Before markets opened, the U.S. Labor Department reported that initial jobless claims for the period ended last week fell to 351,000, down from a revised 353,000 – in line with expectations but providing more evidence that the labour market is showing improvement.

The ISM manufacturing index disappointed, falling to 52.4 from 54.1, but remained in expansion territory and showed healthy levels of new orders and production.

Commodity producers and financials led the gains on both sides of the border. Among U.S. banks, Bank of America Corp. rose 1.9 per cent andJPMorgan Chase & Co. rose 2.9 per cent. In Canada, the gains among financials were driven by another upbeat round of earnings from the Big Banks. Toronto-Dominion Bank rose 1.5 per cent and Royal Bank of Canada rose 2 per cent after both banks beat expectations with their earnings – even as they declined slightly from last year – and delivered dividend increases.

Crude oil settled in New York at $108.84 (U.S.) a barrel, up $1.77 – but surged above $110 a barrel in electronic trading following reports of a pipeline explosion in Saudi Arabia. Suncor Energy Inc. rose 0.6 per cent and Canadian Oil Sands Ltd. rose 1.4 per cent.

Gold also rebounded slightly after Wednesday’s sharp selloff, rising to $1,722.20 an ounce, up $10.90. Among gold producers, Barrick Gold Corp. fell 0.2 per cent.

Meanwhile, Bombardier Inc. fell 9.5 per cent after beating fourth quarter earnings estimates but reporting that it expects a lower number of plane deliveries in 2012.

Gap Inc. rose 7.2 per cent after the retailer reported that sales at stores open for at least one year rose 6 per cent in February. Ford Motor Co. Ltd. rose 2.3 per cent after reporting that its vehicle sales in February rose 14 per cent

Research In Motion Ltd. fell 4.9 per cent after an analyst at Jefferies said their was a 50 per cent chance that the BlackBerry maker would warn of poor results ahead of its expected quarterly earnings report at the end of the month.

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