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The S&P 500 closed in the green for the first time in six sessions -- halting its longest slump since December -- after a round of lukewarm data elicited hopes the Fed won't taper its bond purchases too soon.
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The Dow Jones Industrial Average climbed 55 points, or 0.36%, to 15328, the S&P 500 gained 5.9 points, or 0.35%, to 1699 and the Nasdaq Composite rose 26.3 points, or 0.7%, to 3787.
The markets have taken a hit recently - as traders worry about the fiscal showdown in Washington, D.C. and the potential for tapering come October. A set of economic data, however, provided a positive jolt on Thursday.
The Commerce Department’s second reading on U.S. GDP shows the economy expanded at an annual rate of 2.5% in the second quarter, matching a previous estimate. Economists expected GDP to grow by 2.6%.
Todd Schoenberger, managing partner at LandColt Capital, said the markets will "respond favorably" to the report since the tepid reading could force the Federal Reserve to continue on with its aggressive easing program.
Meanwhile, the Labor Department said claims for initial jobless benefits fell to 305,000 last week from an upwardly revised 310,000 the week prior. Economists expected the number of claims to rise to 325,000 from an initially reported 309,000. The Labor Department said computer issues that caused a backlog of unprocessed claims have been resolved.
The National Association of Realtors said signed contracts to buy previously-owned homes fell 1.6% in August, more than the 1% drop economists expected. The housing market has been picking up steam, and helping the economy, according to economists. However, analysts are keeping a close eye on how rising interest rates may affect demand.
In corporate news, eBay (NASDAQ:EBAY) said it would buy global payment platform Braintree for $800 million in cash.
In commodities, U.S. crude oil futures rose 48 cents, or 0.47%, to $103.14 a barrel. Wholesale New York Harbor gasoline advanced 0.65% to $2.674 a gallon. Gold rose $1.30, or 0.1%, to $1,338 a troy ounce.
The Euro Stoxx 50 dipped 0.21% to 2921, the English FTSE 100 fell 0.02% to 6550 and the German DAX sliped 0.1% to 8657.
In Asia, the Japanese Nikkei 225 rallied 1.2% to 14799 and the Chinese Hang Seng slumped 0.26% to 23125.