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Jobseekers stand in line to attend the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. career fair held by the New York State department of Labor in New York April 12, 2012. A report on Friday showed the economy created only 120,000 jobs last month, the fewest since October. The unemployment rate fell to a three-year low of 8.2 percent, but largely as people gave up the search for work.

Lucas Jackson/REUTERS

Stocks closed relatively flat on Thursday, following a disappointing reading on European economic growth in the fourth quarter but a surprising dip in U.S. jobless claims.

The S&P 500 closed at 1521.38, up 1.05 points or less than 0.1 per cent. The blue-chip Dow Jones industrial average closed at 13,973.39, down 9.52 points or less than 0.1 per cent. In Canada, the S&P/TSX composite index closed at 12,721.79, down 53.49 points or 0.4 per cent.

The moves follow news that the euro zone economy contracted for the third straight quarter at the end of 2012, with activity in France and Germany also slipping. In the fourth quarter, gross domestic product fell 0.6 per cent, worse than the 0.4 per cent contraction expected by economists and the biggest quarterly slide since 2009.

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However, U.S. initial jobless claims for the period ended last week fell to 341,000 from 368,000 – marking a bigger-than-expected decline.

Heinz surged 19.9 per cent after it agreed to be acquired by Warren Buffett's Berkshire Hathaway Inc. and 3G Capital for $23-billion or $72.50 (U.S.) a share.

Whole Foods Market fell 9.7 per cent after it reported profit growth of 24 per cent in its fiscal first quarter, but forecast weaker-than-expected sales and margins for the rest of 2013.

Barrick Gold Corp. rose 2.3 per cent after it announced spending cutbacks. The move followed a $4.2-billion writedown in the company's copper business and a $3.1-billion net loss in the fourth quarter.

Research In Motion Ltd. recovered from an early selloff that followed news that founder Jim Balsillie now has no stake in the BlackBerry maker. The shares ended 7.5 per cent higher.

Among commodities, crude oil rose to $97.31 a barrel, up 30 cents. Gold fell to $1,635 an ounce, down $9.60. Suncor Energy Inc. fell 1.7 per cent.

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