Stocks Hold Gains After Jobless Claims Dip

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The four-week moving average came in at 396,250, an increase of 9,500 from the previous week's average of 386,750.

Continuing claims for the week ended Nov. 10 fell 30,000 to 3.337 million from the prior week's upwardly revised level of 3.367 million. Economists, on average, were expecting continuing claims to come in at 3.345 million.

"Jobless claims remained above the 400k mark despite the sharp 41k drop in the pace of initial jobless filings to 410k," said Millan Mulraine, an economist at TD Securities. "The decline comes on the heels of the upwardly revised pop to 451k the week before. The elevated level of claims is due in part to the continuing impact of Hurricane Sandy, which will likely continue to distort the data for another few weeks."

The Markit Flash U.S. Manufacturing Purchasing Managers' Index signaled the strongest improvement in U.S. manufacturing business conditions for five months in November.

The preliminary 'flash' PMI reading rose to 52.4 from 51 in October to indicate overall a moderate manufacturing expansion.

"The survey implies that manufacturing output will soon start to expand at a 3m/3m annualized pace of around 3%. Stripping out the short-term boost from Sandy, however, and output is probably flat," commented Paul Dales, an economist at Capital Economics . "That's unlikely to change much when the global economy is set to remain weak."

The final read on the University of Michigan Consumer Sentiment Index for November came in at 82.7, down from the 84.9 preliminary reading and below the forecast of 84.5.

The Conference Board's leading economic indicators index rose an as-expected 0.2% in October after increasing by a downwardly revised 0.5% in September.

The U.S. stock market is closed Thursday for Thanksgiving and Friday will be an abbreviated trading day.

The FTSE 100 in London closed up 0.07%, while the DAX in Germany finished higher by 0.16%.

Japan's Nikkei average settled up 0.87% on Wednesday and Hong Kong's Hang Seng index closed higher by 1.39%.

Gold for December delivery settled up $4.60 at $1,728.20 an ounce at the Comex division of the New York Mercantile Exchange, while January crude oil contracts closed up 63 cents at $87.38.

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The benchmark 10-year Treasury fell 3/32, to raise the yield to 1.682%. The dollar was up 0.04%, according to the U.S. dollar index.

In corporate news, Deere(DE) shares slid 3.7% after the agricultural equipment maker posted fiscal fourth-quarter earnings below analysts' estimates amid higher production costs and increased selling, administrative and general, and research and development expenses.

The company reported earnings of $1.75 a share on revenue of $9.79 billion; analysts, on average, were expecting a profit of $1.88 a share on revenue of $8.85 billion.

Salesforce.com(CRM) , the cloud computing company, on Tuesday delivered a 35% year-over-year revenue increase in its latest quarter.