Greece woes returned to the headlines Thursday as reports of massive protests troubled investors and the threat of an S&P downgrade loomed.  European indices closed down for the day on such concerns.

However, by the afternoon session, sentiments rebounded as U.S. stock pared losses.  In particular, shares of European firms traded on the New York Stock Exchange showed marked improvement.

The three major U.S. indices were down more than 1 percent earlier.  As of 2:49 pm, the S&P 500 Index is down 6.74 points, or 0.61 percent, to trade at 1,098.50.  The Dow Jones Industrial Average is down 0.86 percent, or 88.80 points, at 10,285.36.

The euro reversed its slide against the U.S. dollar.  Since the opening of the U.S. stock market, the euro has gained 76 pips against the dollar.

The American Depository Receipts (ADRs) of National Bank of Greece, which was down over 5 percent earlier, is now down only 2.65 percent. 

The ADRs of Credit Suisse (NYSE:CS) is trading up 0.30 percent and the ADRs of Lloyds Banking Group (NYSE:LYG) is up 1.49 percent.  Those of Royal Bank of Scotland (NYSE:RBS) gained 5.75, although most of the gains were made in the morning session.

Firms involved in healthcare continued to perform well as President Obama's televised healthcare summit did little to advance his newly proposed healthcare bill against stiff Republican resistance.

Let's scrap this bill and start over, said House Republican Leader John Boehner, echoing earlier calls for a fresh start by other Republican legislators.  

WellPoint (NYSE:WLP) is trading up 1.95 percent and Humana (NYSE:HUM) gained 0.08 percent.

Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke, in his testimony before the House Financial Services Committee, repeated the position he put forth on Wednesday regarding the economy and monetary policy.

Interest rates are expected to be low, inflationary pressures are expected to be subdued, and the job market is expected to remain weak.

The unemployment claims for the week ending on February 20, released at 8:30 am EST Thursday, seem to validate Bernanke's concern.

While analysts were expecting claims to decrease to 461,000, the reported figure actually increased by 22,000 from last week to 496,000. 

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