The U.S. stock market grinded higher on Thursday afternoon after a morning sell-off. Stocks added to their gains heading into the closing bell and finished the day near session highs. All three major averages recorded moderate gains. The only major economic release on Thursday was initial and continuing jobless claims, which came in mixed.

Initial and Continuing Claims

Initial claims were ahead of estimates, while continuing claims came in below economists' consensus. Initial jobless claims tallied 371,000 which compared to estimates of 364,000 showing more people than expected filed for unemployment benefits in the first week of January.

Continuing claims were 3.109 million. This was below the consensus estimate of 3.2 million for the week ended December 29, 2012.

Major Averages

The Dow Jones Industrial Average closed near the highs of the day, notching a gain of almost 81 points, or 0.60 percent, to finish at 13,471.

The S&P 500 jumped more than 11 points, or 0.76 percent, to 1,472.

The Nasdaq was the laggard on the day, adding around 16 points, or 0.51 percent, to just below 3,122.

Currencies

The euro currency soared versus the U.S. dollar on Thursday which helped spur risk appetite. At last check, the EUR/USD pair was up 1.51 percent to $1.3253. Overall, the greenback was very weak on the session with the PowerShares DB US Dollar Index Bullish ETF (UUP) losing more than 1 percent.

Other notable movers included the GBP/USD which jumped 0.81 percent and the AUD/USD which also added 0.81 percent on the session.

Commodities

NYMEX crude oil was higher on the day while Brent crude was very slightly lower. At last check, NYMEX crude futures were up 0.87 percent to $93.91 while Brent contracts had lost 0.02 percent to $111.74. Natural gas recorded a gain of 2.63 percent to $3.20.

Gold and silver also followed stocks higher on Thursday. COMEX gold futures were last trading up 1.18 percent to $1,675.20 while silver futures had added almost 2 percent to $30.85. Copper was up around 1 percent on the day.

Agricultural commodity prices were generally stable with no movers of over 1 percent. Corn was higher on the session while wheat was down slightly. In the soft commodity complex, cocoa added more than 2 percent and coffee and sugar both rose over 1 percent.

Bonds

The bond market was weaker on the session as investors preferred stocks. The iShares Barclays 20+ Year Bond ETF (TLT) was trading down 0.32 percent to $118.72 late in the day.

The yield on the 2-Year Note was flat while the yield on the 5-Year rose 2 basis points to 0.79 percent. The biggest yield gainer was the 10-Year Note which added 4 basis points to 1.89 percent. The 30-Year Bond yield rose 2 basis points to 3.08 percent.

Volatility and Volume

The VIX fell around 2.50 percent on the session to 13.46 as volatility expectations remain very low. The 52-week high in the VIX is just under 28.

Volume was light once again on Wall Street. Around 102 million SPDR S&P 500 ETF (SPY) shares traded hands on the day compared to a 3-month daily average of 140.5 million.

Stock Movers

Shares of Herbalife (HLF) fell a little less than 2 percent on Thursday when the company held an analyst meeting to refute the allegations of short-seller Bill Ackman.

Smith & Wesson (SWHC) lost almost 4 percent on the session as Vice President Biden was scheduled to meet with gun store owners ahead of expected new gun control proposals next week.

Ford (F) jumped almost 3 percent on the session after the company doubled its dividend payout.

Molycorp (NYE: MCP) plunged around 23 percent on the day after poor forward looking guidance and rumors that the company may do a secondary offering.

SuperValu (SVU) jumped more than 14 percent after private equity firm Cerberus acquired 30 percent of the struggling grocery retailer.

Bazzarvoice (BV) plunged almost 16 percent intra-day after news surfaced that the FTC was investigating the company over an acquisition.

Tiffany (TIF) lost roughly 4.50 percent on Thursday after the company provided disappointing guidance prior to the opening bell.

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