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The close: S&P 500 back to five-year highs Add to ...

Stocks rose on Thursday, following an uptick in U.S. jobless claims but an encouraging outlook from the European Central Bank and stronger-than-expected Chinese trade data.

The S&P 500 closed at 1472.12, up 11.10 points or 0.8 per cent – sending the benchmark index to a fresh five-year high. The blue-chip Dow Jones industrial average closed at 13,471.22, up 80.71 points or 0.6 per cent. In Canada, the S&P/TSX composite index closed at 12,599.74, up 77.50 points or 0.6 per cent.

The moves follow a disappointing report on U.S. initial jobless claims. After showing some improvement following the effects of Hurricane Sandy, claims for the period ended last week rose to 371,000 – 4,000 above the previous week and above economists’ expectations.

However, ECB president Mario Draghi said that the euro area economy will slowly return to health in 2013 as it benefits from a “positive contagion” of good news – highlighted by retreating borrowing costs by countries such as Spain. On Thursday, the yield on Spain’s 10-year government bond fell 23 basis points, to less than 4.9 per cent, down from 5.9 per cent as recently as November.

The central bank held is key interest rate unchanged, at 0.75 per cent.

In China, exports grew 14.1 per cent in December and imports rose 6 per cent, marking an upbeat shift from November.

Within the S&P 500, financials were the biggest winners after Warren Buffett said that the U.S. banking system was in the best shape in recent memory. Bank of America Corp. rose 3.1 per cent.

Nokia jumped 18.7 per cent in New York trading after it reported a recovery in fourth quarter-earnings, with its mobile phones division showing its first profit in a year.

Ford Motor Co. rose 2.7 per cent after it doubled its quarterly dividend to 10 cents (U.S.) a share.

In Canada, materials led the gains after gold rebounded to $1,678 an ounce, up $22.50. Barrick Gold Corp. rose 2.3 per cent.

Jean Coutu Group (PJC) Inc. rose 2.5 per cent after it reported quarterly earnings of $56.2-million (Canadian) or 26 cents a share, up 10 per cent from last year and beating expectations by a penny.

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