Markets higher on jobless claims, durable goods data

 @ibtimes
on December 24 2009 10:08 AM

U.S. stocks rose in a shortened preholiday session on Thursday after data showing a drop in initial jobless claims and growth in durable goods orders indicated an economic recovery was gaining traction.

Claims fell by 28,000 to a seasonally adjusted 452,000 in the week ended December 19, the government said. Analysts expected a reading of 470,000.

New orders for durable goods rose by 0.2 percent in November, but surged 2.0 percent, excluding transportation.

The durable goods number shows that business and consumer spending are picking up, while jobless claims continue to tread down. Both are further signs of a healing economy, said Wayne Kaufman, chief market analyst at John Thomas Financial in New York.

The Dow Jones industrial average <.DJI> was up 18.36 points, or 0.17 percent, at 10,484.12. The Standard & Poor's 500 Index <.SPX> rose 2.71 points, or 0.24 percent, at 1,123.30. The Nasdaq Composite Index <.IXIC> added 6.71 points, or 0.29 percent, at 2,276.13.

Thursday's session will end at 1 p.m. EST (1800 GMT), and the markets will be closed on Friday for Christmas.

Healthcare-related sectors rose after the U.S. Senate approved an overhaul measure Thursday morning, removing a degree of uncertainty for investors.

While the proposed reform had pressured health insurance stocks, analysts say the measure won't hurt as much as first thought.

Tenet Healthcare Corp gained 3.8 percent to $5.73, while Aetna Inc rose 0.5 percent to $33.93, and the Dow Jones U.S. Health Care Provider index <.DJUSHP> dipped 0.1 percent.

The U.S. dollar index <.DXY> slipped 0.1 percent, coming off three-month highs against a basket of currencies a day after weak U.S. housing data was released.

(Editing by Jeffrey Benkoe)

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