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Trader Andrew Silverman, left, works on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange. (Richard Drew/AP)
Trader Andrew Silverman, left, works on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange. (Richard Drew/AP)

The close: S&P 500 climbs in grinding session Add to ...

U.S. stocks turned in modest gains on Thursday, in a grinding session dominated by relatively upbeat economic news but little sign of progress in budget negotiations in Washington.

The S&P 500 closed at 1443.69, up 7.88 points or 0.6 per cent. The blue-chip Dow Jones industrial average closed at 13,311.72, up 59.75 points or 0.5 per cent. In Canada, the S&P/TSX composite index closed at 12,388.71, down 14.92 points or 0.1 per cent – weighed down by slumping mining stocks as the price of gold fell.

U.S. initial jobless claims rose to 361,000 for the period ended last week, up from 344,000 in the previous week, but in line with expectations.

Existing home sales in November rose 5.9 per cent, to the highest level in three years, topping expectations.

U.S. economic growth in the third quarter rose 3.1 per cent at an annualized pace, in the final revision on gross domestic product. That was up from a second revision of 2.7 per cent.

However, concerns about the so-called U.S. “fiscal cliff” continue to weigh on sentiment, with Barack Obama warning that any vote on the Republican budget proposal would merely delay any final deal. If no deal is made by the end of the year, the economy will face automatic tax increases and spending cuts.

In the U.S., financials were among the best performers, with Bank of America Corp. up 3 per cent and JPMorgan Chase & Co. up 2.3 per cent.

NYSE Euronext surged more than 34.1 per cent after Intercontinental Exchange Inc. agreed to buy the stock exchange company in a $8.2-billion (U.S.) deal.

In Canada, materials stocks were among the biggest laggards after the price of gold fell to $1,645.90 an ounce, down $21.80. Barrick Gold Corp. fell 0.7 per cent and Goldcorp Inc. fell 2.1 per cent.

Research In Motion Ltd. rose 3.1 per cent in regular trading, before releasing its third quarter results. The BlackBerry maker, which has been feeding on positive buzz relatved to the release of a new platform in early 2013, reported a loss of $114-million, or slightly less than what analysts had been expecting. The company’s cash holdings grew to $2.9-billion, but the number of BlackBerry users decline to 79 million from more than 80 million.

In post market trading, RIM shares in the U.S. initially rallied 8 per cent on the earnings beat but later reversed course and were last trading down 10 per cent.

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