- U.S. stocks were little changed on Thursday, after the release of positive U.S. jobless claims data, while investors eyed a second day of congressional testimony by Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen.

During early U.S. trade, the Dow 30 added 0.13%, the S&P 500 inched up 0.05%, while the NASDAQ Composite dipped 0.03%.

The U.S. Department of Labor said the number of individuals filing for initial jobless benefits in the week ending May 3 fell by 26,000 to 319,000 from the previous week’s revised total of 345,000. Analysts had expected jobless claims to fall by 20,000 to 325,000 last week.

The data came after Fed Chair Janet Yellen said Wednesday that a high degree of monetary accommodation remains warranted given the slack in the economy.

Ms. Yellen also said the Fed expects economic growth to accelerate this year despite the slowdown in the first quarter but warned that the recent housing market slowdown "could prove more protracted than currently expected."

The auto sector, Ford Motor (NYSE:F) rose 0.39% after saying it will repurchase $1.8 billion of its shares to reduce dilution from recent stock grants to executives.

Meanwhile, AT&T (NYSE:T) shares jumped 0.95% amid reports the mobile-phone carrier is in talks to buy satellite-television company DirecTV.

On the downside, Caesars Entertainment (NASDAQ:CZR) plummeted 2.24% as the casino operator was said to be looking for ways to reduce capacity in Atlantic City''s struggling market, including closing properties.

The group had announced earlier in the week that it is selling a minority interest in its largest unit, setting the stage for a wider restructuring.

Comcast Corporation (NASDAQ:CMCSA) added to losses, down 0.33%, despite news NBC is set to pay an average of 16% more for rights to broadcast the Olympic Games in the U.S. through 2032, far below the price hikes that sports such as soccer and American football have commanded.

In earnings news, (NASDAQ:PCLN) reported a 36% increase in quarterly profit, but shares in the online travel company were still down 3.58%.

Other stocks likely to be in focus included News Corp (NASDAQ:NWSA), scheduled to report quarterly results later in the day.

Across the Atlantic, European stock markets were higher. The DJ Euro Stoxx 50 advanced 0.72%, France’s CAC 40 climbed 0.58%, Germany''s DAX gained 0.45%, while Britain''s FTSE 100 rose 0.40%.

During the Asian trading session, Hong Kong''s Hang Seng gained 0.42%, while Japan’s Nikkei 225 jumped 0.93%.

Also Thursday, the European Central Bank held its benchmark interest rate at a record low 0.25%, in line with expectations.

Speaking at the ECB’s post-policy meeting press conference, Mario Draghi said that the central bank will continue to monitor developments closely and will consider all instruments available to support growth. He added that ECB is ready to act swiftly if further easing is needed.

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