Stocks posted modest gains on Thursday, emerging from a lacklustre start as investors digested mixed earnings, upbeat U.S. jobless claims and surging crude oil prices.
The Dow Jones industrial average closed at 12,984.69, up 46.02 points or 0.4 per cent. The broader S&P 500 closed at 1363.46, up 5.80 points or 0.4 per cent. In Canada, the S&P/TSX composite index closed at 12,731.28, up 30.02 points or 0.2 per cent.
The gains came well after the U.S. Labor Department reported that initial jobless claims for the period ended last week were 351,000, in line with expectations but at their lowest level since March 2008 and providing more evidence that the employment situation is improving.
The price of crude oil continued to dominate attention, rising to its highest level since last May and turning in its sixth consecutive gain as investors fret over potential supply disruptions due to tensions with Iran. Oil rose to $107.83 (U.S.) a barrel in New York, up $1.55.
Energy producers moved higher as well, though with what looks like little confidence that higher oil prices are here to stay. Suncor Energy Inc. rose 2.2 per cent and Chevron Corp. rose 0.8 per cent, but Canadian Oil Sands Ltd. was relatively unchanged.
Gold also continued its impressive winning streak, rising to $1,786.30 an ounce, up $15. However, big gold producers did not go along for the ride: Barrick Gold Corp. fell 0.1 per cent and Goldcorp Inc. rose just 0.2 per cent.
Meanwhile, companies that reported quarterly results saw some big swings in their share prices. Hewlett-Packard Co. fell 6.5 per cent after its profit forecast missed expectations. And although Sears Holdings Corp. reported adjusted earnings that missed expectations and showed a 4 per cent slide in revenues, investors drove the shares up 18.7 per cent on news that the company will sell some stores and hive off others.
Loblaw Cos. Ltd. fell 5.7 per cent after its fourth-quarter results missed expectations and it issued a disappointing outlook.