U.S. stocks traded slightly higher after the open on Thursday, as jobless claims fell to their lowest level in more than two years, helping offset disappointing data on Chinese manufacturing. The Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 4 points to 11,589. The S&P 500 index rose 88 cents to 1,260. The energy sector led the gains, while consumer staples lagged. The Nasdaq Composite gained 2 points to 2,669. The commodity stocks look like they're going to finish the year on a tear. Freeport McMoran, Agrium, Potash, CF Industries, and Mosaic all made new 52 week highs this morning. The rest of the commodities are also performing well. Alcoa is higher on an upgrade. Fifteen minutes into trading, the markets received some good news in the form of better than expected manufacturing numbers out of Chicago. Ironically, the averages did not react. In fact the averages drifted into the red. Once again volatility and volume are low as many people are not working today or tomorrow. After the first hour the averages remained range bound. A number of financials have inched into the green. A number of chip stocks are in the green. Commodities remain the best performing sector. In the afternoon and in the last hour the averages remained in the red. The Dow Jones Industrial Average finished down 15 points at 11,569, with 23 of its 30 components ending lower. The S&P 500 index declined 1.9 points at 1,257, weighed down by its financials and healthcare sectors. The Nasdaq Composite lost 4 points to 2,662.
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