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The close: Dow surges back to small gain Add to ...

Stocks made an impressive comeback from session lows on Thursday, despite concerns about the European economy and a lacklustre report on U.S. initial jobless claims, which rattled markets in the morning.

The Dow Jones industrial average closed at 13,145.82, up 19.61 points or 0.2 per cent – rebounding more than 110 points from its low. The broader S&P 500 closed at 1403.28, down 2.26 points or 0.2 per cent. In Canada, the S&P/TSX composite index closed at 12,339.36, down 74.50 points or 0.6 per cent – but also bounced more than 140 points from its low.

Stocks bad been bathing in a sea of red throughout most of the day. In Spain, a general strike against the government’s upcoming austerity measures reminded investors that Europe’s sovereign-debt crisis remains a viable threat. As well, the European Commission’s economic sentiment indicator fell, versus an expectation for a flat reading.

Meanwhile, the U.S. Labor Department reported that initial jobless claims for the period ended last week fell to 359,000, but were higher than economists’ expectations for 350,000 claims.

Commodities were hit hard: Crude oil fell to $102.78 (U.S.) a barrel, down $2.63. Gold fell to $1,654.90 an ounce, down $5.60. However, commodity producers and related companies were among the biggest rebounders in afternoon trading. Alcoa Inc. rose 2 per cent and Caterpillar Inc. rose 1.7 per cent, marking the biggest gains in the 30-member Dow.

However, U.S. financials remained weak: Bank of America Corp. fell 2.3 per cent and JPMorgan Chase & Co. fell 1.3 per cent.

In Canada, Suncor Energy Inc. fell 0.2 per cent and Canadian Oil Sands Ltd. fell 2.1 per cent. Barrick Gold Corp. fell 0.2 per cent. Financials pared back some of their earlier losses, but still finished lower: Royal Bank of Canada fell 1.4 per cent and Manulife Financial Corp. fell 2.2 per cent.

Research In Motion Ltd. rose 0.2 per cent during regular trading hours, before the release of the BlackBerry maker’s much-anticipated fourth quarter results.

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