Dow Shakes Off Losses

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The blue chips managed to shed mid-day losses, ending modestly to the upside, but many traders remained on the sidelines with volume coming in below average.

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Today's Markets

The Dow Jones Industrial Average gained 33.6 points, or 0.27%, to 12530, the S&P 500 rose 1.8 points, or 0.14%, to 1321 and the Nasdaq Composite slumped 10.7 points, or 0.38%, to 2839.

There were 3.78 billion shares traded on the New York York Stock Exchange on the day, which came in short of the 3.89 billion average so far this year. Materials, health-care, and consumer discretionary shares performed best on the day. On the other side of the spectrum, technology, industrial and energy stocks performed the best.

Market participants had a slew of economic data to digest on the day.

The Commerce Department reported orders for long-lasting goods climbed 0.2% last month, weaker than the 0.5% increase economists expected. Excluding the transportation segment, orders were down 0.6%. Economists had been expecting a rise of 0.9%.

The data provide valuable insight into the strength of the manufacturing sector at the start of the second quarter, and therefore often move the markets.

Separately, the Labor Department said the number of individuals applying for first-time jobless benefits fell to 370,000 from an upwardly revised 372,000 last week. Economists were expecting claims to hold steady at an initially reported 370,000.

The U.S. data released on Thursday "support our position that economic output, while not contracting by any means, is hardly growing," Dan Greenhaus, chief global strategist at BTIG, wrote in a note to clients.

The economic downturn in the eurozone worsened in May, according to a key business survey by Markit. The London-based company said private-sector activity across the currency bloc contracted at the fastest pace since June 2009. Germany, the bloc's economic powerhouse, saw activity shrink overall, with its important manufacturing sector decelerating at the swiftest clip in 35 months. Overall, the data do not bode well for the already weak eurozone economy.

"The survey is broadly consistent with gross domestic product falling by at least 0.5% across the region in the second quarter, as an increasingly steep downturn in the periphery infects both France and Germany," Chris Williamson, Markit's chief economist wrote in the report.

Meanwhile, a survey by HSBC showed China's manufacturing sector contracted at an increasing pace in May as well. Economists have worried that the world's second-largest economy may be in for what they refer to as a "hard landing," in which the expansion there rapidly slows down.

European markets managed to shrug off the weak data, with the Euro Stoxx 50 advancing by more than 1% after a nearly 3% slide in the prior session. Traders struck a cautious tone across the board, however.

"There is some bargain hunting coming in," Will Hedden, a sales trader at IG Index in London, said in an interview with FOX Business on Thursday. He noted that it is difficult to see a compelling reason for the broad gains, but that there are some values to be found among fundamentally strong companies that have been beaten down.

On the corporate front, Hewlett-Packard (NYSE:HPQ) saw its fiscal-second quarter profit top analysts' expectations. The blue-chip technology company also unveiled plans to slash some 27,000 jobs.

Commodities were mostly higher. Crude oil traded in New York gained 70 cents, or 0.78%, to $90.60 a barrel. Wholesale New York Harbor gasoline slipped 0.15% to $2.88 a gallon.

In metals, gold jumped $9.10, or 0.59%, to $1,558 a troy ounce.

Foreign Markets

The Euro Stoxx 50 rallied 1.1% to 2158, the English FTSE 100 jumped 1.6% to 5350 and the German DAX gained 0.48% to 6316.

In Asia, the Japanese Nikkei 225 edged higher by 0.08% to 8563 and the Chinese Hang Seng dipped 0.64% to 18666.