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At noon: Stocks up after jobless claims drop

North American stocks were modestly higher in midday trading on Thursday, promising to break a losing streak after U.S. jobless claims fell to their lowest levels in more than four years.

Shortly after noon, the Dow Jones industrial average was up 20 points or 0.2 per cent, to 13,365. The broader S&P 500 was up 5 points or 0.4 per cent, to 1438. The benchmark index has fallen for four straight days as of Wednesday. In Canada, the S&P/TSX composite index was up 53 points or 0.4 per cent, to 12,265.

The moves follow an upbeat report on U.S. initial jobless claims, which fell to their lowest level since February 2008. For the period ended last week, claims fell to 339,000, down 30,000. Economists had been expecting a reading of 370,000.

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The decline follows last week's report on monthly payrolls from the Labor Department, which rose more than expected and held out some hope that the long-stagnant employment landscape is starting to improve.

Commodity producers showed some of the biggest moves within major indexes after key commodity prices moved higher. Crude oil rose to $92.48 (U.S.) a barrel, up $1.23. Gold rose to $1,771 an ounce, up $6.

Within the S&P 500, energy stocks rose 1 per cent and materials rose 0.9 per cent. Financials rose 0.8 per cent.

Sprint Nextel Corp. rose 15.1 per cent on a report that Japan's Softbank Corp. is considering a big investment in the U.S. wireless carrier.

Within Canada's benchmark index, materials rose 0.8 per cent and energy stocks rose 0.7 per cent. Financials rose 0.3 per cent.

In Europe, the U.K.'s FTSE 100 rose 0.9 per cent and Germany's DAX index rose 1.1 per cent.

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