- U.S. stocks opened moderately higher on Thursday, after the release of disappointing U.S. economic reports and as investors eyed Federal Reserve Chairwoman Janet Yellen''s testimony later in the day.

During early U.S. trade, the Dow Jones Industrial Average inched 0.06% higher, the S&P 500 eased up 0.06%, while the Nasdaq Composite index added 0.14%.

The Commerce Department reported that durable goods orders declined by a seasonally adjusted 1% last month, compared to expectations for a 1.5% drop.

Core durable goods orders, excluding volatile transportation items, rose 1.1% in January, the largest increase since May, confounding forecasts for a 0.3% decline.

Separately, the Labor Department said the number of individuals filing for initial jobless benefits rose by 14,000 to 348,000 from the previous week’s total of 334,000. Analysts had expected an increase of just 1,000.

Investors also remained cautious amid reports that Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered 150,000 Russian troops to begin military exercises in central and western Russia, near the border with Ukraine.

J.C. Penney shares soared 23.83% after the retailer forecast an increase in annual revenue and margin expansion, prompting Chief Executive Officer Mike Ullman to predict its turnaround will be completed this year.

Also on the upside, Tesla Motors Inc. rallied 1.78% after the luxury electric-car maker announced on Wednesday that it is selling at least $1.6 billion of convertible notes to finance the construction of what co-founder Elon Musk bills as the world''s largest battery factory.

The project could reportedly trigger a bidding contest between states eager for the 6,500 jobs the $5 billion investment could create. Shares in the automaker surged 4.62% in early trading.

Elsewhere, Best Buy reported a larger-than-expected quarterly profit, sending shares up 6.51%.

Sears Holdings advanced 7.03% after the retailer posted a lower than expected fourth-quarter loss.

Other stocks likely to be in focus included LKQ, Mylan Labs, Ocwen and Sempra Energy, scheduled to report quarterly earnings later in the day.

Across the Atlantic, European stock markets were lower. The EURO STOXX 50 declined 0.79%, France’s CAC 40 slipped 0.23%, Germany''s DAX tumbled 1.02%, while Britain''s FTSE 100 fell 0.12%.

During the Asian trading session, Hong Kong''s Hang Seng Index jumped 1.74%, while Japan’s Nikkei 225 Index slid 0.32%.

Market participants were looking ahead to testimony by Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen later Thursday, after a recent spate of disappointing U.S. economic indicators raised some doubts over whether the central bank will maintain the current pace of reductions to its stimulus program.

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