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Trader Michael Zicchinolfi works on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange, July 24, 2012. (BRENDAN MCDERMID/REUTERS)
Trader Michael Zicchinolfi works on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange, July 24, 2012. (BRENDAN MCDERMID/REUTERS)

The close: Stocks up on jobless claims, Gaza ceasefire Add to ...

Stocks rose modestly on Wednesday, as investors digested a drop in U.S. jobless claims and a ceasefire between Israel and Hamas, easing tensions in the Middle East.

The S&P 500 closed at 1391.03, up 3.22 points or 0.2 per cent. The blue-chip Dow Jones industrial average closed at 12,836.89, up 48.38 points or 0.4 per cent. In Canada, the S&P/TSX composite index closed at 12,100.06, up 53.78 points or 0.5 per cent.

The gains mark the first significant gains following a rally on Monday, when major indexes saw their biggest one-day boost in about two months. That rally was likely due to investors becoming more optimistic that U.S. politicians will be able to agree on a budget and avoid the so-called fiscal cliff of rising taxes and declining government spending.

U.S. initial jobless claims fell to 410,000 last week, down 41,000 as the effects of Hurricane Sandy wear off. The decline was in line with economists’ expectations.

As well, there were reports that leaders were making progress on shaping the European Union’s long-term budget.

However, the news wasn’t all upbeat. The University of Michigan’s consumer confidence index fell to 82.7 from 84.9, coming in below expectations.

Key commodities gained. Gold rose to $1,728.20 (U.S.) an ounce, up $4.60. Crude oil rose to $87.38 a barrel, up 63 cents.

Among Canadian commodity producers, Suncor Energy Inc. rose 0.8 per cent and Barrick Gold Corp. rose 1.1 per cent.

Research In Motion Ltd. continued its winning streak, rising 5.5 per cent. The latest gain took the share price above $10 (Canadian) for the first time since June. Since September, the shares have risen more than 65 per cent, partly over enthusiasm about the company’s upcoming new operating system for the BlackBerry.

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