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Stronger economic reports push stock market higher

NEW YORK (AP) — The stock market rose Thursday as investors weighed positive economic reports against worries about Syria.

The Dow Jones industrial average added 81 points, or 0.6 percent, to 14,906 in midday trading, while the Standard & Poor's 500 index was up 11 points, or 0.7 percent, at 1,646. The Nasdaq composite rose more sharply, gaining 42 points, or 1.2 percent, to 3,635.

Verizon Communications was the biggest gainer in the Dow after Britain's Vodafone confirmed it was in talks with Verizon to sell its 45 percent stake their joint venture, Verizon Wireless.

Verizon rose $1.52, or 3.25 percent to $48.08. The U.S.-listed shares of Vodafone rose $2.38, or 8.1 percent, to $31.80 on the news.

The stock market has almost completely recovered its loss from Tuesday, when tensions between the U.S. and Syria were escalating. While many fund managers said they're not looking to jump back into the market just yet, some individual companies are starting to look attractive again.

"If you're a long-term investor, it's an opportunity," said Richard Sichel, chief investment officer at Philadelphia Trust Co., which has $1.9 billion under management. He noted a new investment, the retail chain PetSmart, as an example.

Traders focused on economic data that came out early Thursday. The U.S. economy grew at a 2.5 percent annual rate from April through June, much faster than previously estimated, the government said. The figure was revised up from 1.7 percent as more U.S. companies exported goods and imports declined.

Also, the Labor Department said the number of people who filed for unemployment benefits last week fell to 331,000, the fewest in five years.

"It does support our belief that August was another month of steady employment growth," economists with the investment bank RBS wrote in a research report.

While lower unemployment claims and an upward revision on GDP are both positive signs, most of Wall Street's attention is focused on next week, when the August jobs report will be released. The Federal Reserve is expected to decide the fate of its massive bond-buying program in mid-September, and the jobs survey will be the last bit of significant economic data the Fed will have to consider before making its decision.

Traders also continue to watch Syria, where a U.S-led strike could happen in the coming days.

Investors worry that a limited strike against Syria could drag the U.S. and its allies into that nation's civil war, or worse, set off a regional conflict in an area where so much of the world's oil is located.

The price of crude oil fell 78 cents, or 0.7 percent, to $109.29 a barrel. Oil had climbed as high as $112 earlier this week.

Despite the news out of Syria, it remains a mostly quiet week for stocks as traders wind down the last week of summer and head into the long holiday weekend. Midday trading volume on the New York Stock Exchange was roughly 1 billion shares, far below the roughly 3.4 billion shares typically traded daily.

In other corporate news, teen clothing store operator Guess jumped $3.35, or 12.3 percent, to $30.66 after the company reported second-quarter profit and revenue late Wednesday that blew past the expectations of Wall Street analysts. The retailer also raised its profit forecast for the year.

Campbell Soup fell $1.49, or 3.3 percent, to $43.22 after posting a loss for its fiscal fourth quarter. The company's results were dragged down by a charge related to the potential sale of a European business. While the results topped Wall Street's estimates, revenue missed expectations.


Copyright 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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