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US stocks rise; small caps score big gains

Wall Street stocks finished higher following mixed US economic data as a closely watched index of small-cap equities outperformed the broader market.

NEW YORK: Wall Street stocks on Thursday finished higher following mixed US economic data as a closely watched index of small-cap equities outperformed the broader market.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average added 10.02 points (0.06 per cent) at 16,543.08.

The broad-based S&P 500 rose 4.46 (0.24 per cent) to 1,892.49, while the tech-rich Nasdaq Composite Index jumped 22.80 (0.55 per cent) to 4,154.34.

Dan Greenhaus, chief global strategist at BTIG, said investors were cheered by 0.9 per cent rise in the Russell 2000 small-cap index. Weakness in the Russell 2000 has contributed to the broader market's malaise over the last month or so.

"It does feel like at least over the small-cap space, that perhaps the worst is behind us and that's affecting things more generally," Greenhaus said.

Greenhaus said trading volumes were low as some people on Wall Street had taken early vacation ahead of the Memorial Day holiday on Monday.

The US Labor Department reported that initial jobless claims, a measure of the pace of layoffs, totalled 326,000 in the week ending May 17, a gain of 28,000 from the prior week.

US existing homes sold at an annual rate of 4.65 million in April, up 1.3 per cent from March, the National Association of Realtors (NAR) said. April marked the first month sales rose in 2014.

Hewlett-Packard slumped 2.3 per cent as it announced it would cut an additional 11,000-16,000 workers on top of a previously announced plan to downsize 34,000. HP earnings matched expectations, but sales dipped by one per cent to $27.31 billion, missing analyst forecasts for $27.41 billion.

Tobacco companies Reynolds American (-2.1 per cent) and Lorillard (-5.0 per cent) fell on reports they are in merger talks. The Wall Street Journal described the discussions at "advanced," but added that some analysts consider a successful transaction unlikely, in part because of antitrust concerns.

Best Buy gained 3.4 per cent as earnings of 33 cents per share bested expectations by 13 cents. But the retailer said it expects comparable sales to be negative in the upcoming two quarters, citing "ongoing industry-wide sales declines in many of the consumer electronics categories in which we compete."

Bond prices fell. The yield on the 10-year US Treasury rose to 2.56 per cent from 2.54 per cent Wednesday, while the 30-year advanced to 3.43 per cent from 3.42 per cent. Bond prices and yields move inversely.

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