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Stocks open higher after jobs data, retail sales

September 04, 2009|Associated Press

NEW YORK — Stocks rose Thursday, ending a four-day slide, on hopes that a key report on jobs will confirm the economy is gaining strength.

The Dow Jones industrial average reclaimed 64 points after sliding 300 points since last week. Stocks held to a tight range for much of the day in light trading as some investors got an early start on the Labor Day weekend. Those remaining braced for the August employment report, which the Labor Department is due to release before the opening bell today.

Economists expected the government to report that the jobless rate edged up to 9.5% from 9.4% in July. Payrolls are expected to be down again, with the decline estimated at 225,000 to 247,000 jobs.

The latest snapshot on employment Thursday offered investors little to go on. The Labor Department said the number of people filing for unemployment claims fell last week by 4,000, to 570,000. Economists had expected a bigger drop. The report also showed that the total number of people receiving benefits rose, a reminder of how difficult any recovery in the labor market will be.

Retail sales reports released Thursday for August showed that many consumers stayed focused on necessities, though some were starting to open their wallets. Overall sales were still weak, but many companies, including Gap and Costco Wholesale, posted results that topped investors' expectations.

The Dow climbed 63.94 points, or 0.7%, to 9,344.61. The S&P 500 index rose 8.49 points, or 0.9%, to 1,003.24, while the Nasdaq composite index advanced 16.13 points, or 0.8%, to 1,983.20. The Russell 2,000 index of smaller companies jumped 1.2%.

Three stocks rose for every one that fell on the New York Stock Exchange.

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