- A better-than-expected report on weekly U.S. jobless claims sent U.S. stocks rising on Thursday.

At the close of U.S. trading, the Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 0.38%, the S&P 500 index rose 0.17%, while the Nasdaq Composite index fell 0.13%.

The U.S. Department of Labor reported earlier that the number of individuals filing for initial jobless benefits last week fell by 26,000 to 323,000 from the previous week’s revised total of 349,000.

Analysts were expecting jobless claims to fall by 11,000 to 338,000 last week, and the numbers sent stocks largely higher on hopes for a more sustained economic recovery down the road.

A separate report showed that U.S. factory orders fell 0.7% in February, compared to expectations for a 0.4% decline, which capped gains somewhat.

Elsewhere, Costco Wholesale shares took a hit after the company reported a 15% decline in quarterly profits, missing many estimates, while office-supplies giant Staples projected drop in sales and added it planned to close 225 stores across North America.

Leading Dow Jones Industrial Average performers included American Express, up 1.49%, JPMorgan, up 1.32%, and Caterpillar, up 1.31%.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average''s worst performers included Pfizer, down 0.81%, Home Depot, down 0.61%, and UnitedHealth, down 0.39%.

European indices, meanwhile, finished higher.

After the close of European trade, the EURO STOXX 50 rose 0.22%, France''s CAC 40 rose 0.59%, while Germany''s DAX 30 rose 0.01%. Meanwhile, in the U.K. the FTSE 100 rose 0.19%.

On Friday, the U.S. is to round up the week with its closely watched government data on nonfarm payrolls and the unemployment rate.

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