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BRENDAN MCDERMID/Reuters

The S&P 500 rose to a record high close on Thursday, eclipsing its 2007 peak after four years of spectacular gains.

The benchmark index closed at 1569.19, up 6.34 points or 0.4 per cent. The blue-chip Dow Jones industrial average closed at 14,578.54, up 52.38 points or 0.4 per cent – hitting a new record of its own. In Canada, the S&P/TSX composite index closed at 12,749.90, up 50.25 points or 0.4 per cent.

The U.S. gains follow a lengthy flirtation with a record high, with the S&P 500 approaching the threshold on at least three prior occasions – even as the blue-chip Dow has continued to hit successive highs.

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The S&P 500 has risen nearly 132 per cent from its closing low on March 9, 2009. Prior to that, it had shed about 50 per cent during the bear market that followed in the wake of the financial crisis, eradicating some $10-trillion (U.S.) in wealth.

However, the index did not hit a record intraday high on Thursday. That record – 1576.09, in 2007 – still stands.

Thursday's gains followed a relatively uneventful day, in terms of economic news.

The U.S. Labor Department's report on initial jobless claims for the period ended last week showed that claims rose to 357,000, up 16,000. The four-week moving average also edged higher – but many economists remain convinced that the overall employment landscape in the United States is improving.

The U.S. Commerce Department provided its final reading for economic growth in the fourth quarter. It now believes gross domestic product grew 0.4 per cent at an annual rate, just shy of expectations of 0.5 per cent growth but above the previous estimate of just 0.1 per cent.

Abroad, banks in Cyprus reopened, easing concerns that the country's financial crisis is not going to spill into the rest of Europe.

Research In Motion Ltd. rose 2 per cent on the TSX in a seesaw session that followed the release of its quarterly results. It closed down 0.8 per cent on Nasdaq, however. A last-minute burst of short-covering apparently led to the higher close in Toronto.

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The BlackBerry maker reported a surprise profit in its latest quarterly earnings. It said it earned $98-million or 19 cents a share, ahead of expectations and a notable turnaround from its loss of 24 cents a share last year. The other good news: Overall shipments of smartphones met analysts' expectations, and it shipped 1 million of its new Z10s. However, the news wasn't all good: RIM said it lost about 3 million subscribers during the quarter.

Suncor Energy Inc. rose 0.1 per cent after it said on Wednesday that it would scrap its proposed Voyageur oil sands upgrading plant in Alberta, taking a charge of $134-million.

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