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Friday, December 23, 2011

US Stocks end higher on positive jobs data (ext)

NEW YORK (CNNMoney) -- U.S. stocks finished a quiet session higher Thursday, after a stronger-than-expected reading on unemployment boosted investor optimism.

The Dow Jones industrial average (INDU) climbed 62 points, or 0.5%, the S&P 500 (SPX) rose 10 points, or 0.8%, and the Nasdaq (COMP) ticked up 21 points, or 0.8%.

The government reported that the number of Americans filing for first-time unemployment benefits dropped to its lowest level since April 2008.

While the strong report came in the face of a weaker-than-expected reading on economic growth, investors have been grasping on to any positive news they get, said Joseph Saluzzi, co-head of equity trading at Themis Trading. But that could all change quickly, depending on developments overseas.

"The economic reports are a mixed bag, but it looks like the bias is to the upside ... some people believe in a Santa Claus rally [leading up to the holidays]," said Saluzzi. "But all it takes is one headline out of Europe and everything can reverse real fast -- and people are on watch for a European sovereign downgrade."

It's been a volatile week for the market, and swings are likely to continue as trading volume remains light going into the holidays.

The dollar lost ground against the euro and edged up versus the British pound and the Japanese yen.

Oil for February delivery rose 86 cents to $99.53 a barrel.

Gold futures for February delivery dropped $3 to settle at $1,610.60 an ounce.

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