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Traders work on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange, Sept. 20, 2012. (BRENDAN MCDERMID/REUTERS)
Traders work on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange, Sept. 20, 2012. (BRENDAN MCDERMID/REUTERS)

The close: Stocks come back from earlier losses to end flat Add to ...

Stocks ended relatively flat on Thursday, clawing their way back from steeper losses earlier in the day when investors reacted to a slew of disappointing economic news from Europe, China and the United States.

The Dow Jones industrial average closed at 13,596.93, up 18.97 points or 0.1 per cent, rebounding more than 90 points from its low point. The broader S&P 500 closed at 1,460.26, down 0.79 point or less than 0.1 per cent. In Canada, the S&P/TSX composite index closed at 12,409.25, down 26.91 points or 0.2 per cent.

The moves follow new signs that the global economy is sputtering, despite recent efforts by central banks to provide another round of stimulus to put the recovery back on track.

In China, an initial reading of manufacturing activity in September from HSBC showed another contraction, suggesting that one of the key growth engines for the global economy is sputtering.

In the euro zone, business activity contracted at the sharpest pace since June, 2009, highlighting once again the deep economic hole the region is in.

In the United States, initial jobless claims for the period ended last week remained elevated, at 382,000, falling by just 3,000 from the previous week and missing expectations for a bigger decline. As well, the four-week moving average for claims rose for the fifth straight week.

Norfolk Southern, the U.S. railroad, fell 9.1 per cent after reporting that its third-quarter earnings are likely to be lower than expected. Its warning follows FedEx Corp.’s reduced full-year forecast as the global shipping company pointed to a weak global economy.

FedEx shares fell 2 per cent, and the gloom spread to other transportation stocks: Canadian National Railway fell 4.5 per cent.

Bank of America Corp. fell 1.1 per cent after it announced that it will slash an additional 16,000 jobs by the end of the year.

Canadian energy stocks made a comeback, after tumbling crude oil prices weighed on oil producers in recent trading sessions. Suncor Energy Inc. rose 0.6 per cent and Canadian Oil Sands Ltd. rose 0.7 per cent. As for oil, it ended the day in New York at $91.87 (U.S.) a barrel, down 11 cents.

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