Optimism that a budget deal will be reached in Washington sent stocks modestly higher Thursday. A pair of economic reports also brightened the mood.

The Dow Jones industrial average rose 36.71 points to close at 13,021.82.

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The stock market took a brief turn lower when House Speaker John Boehner said little progress was being made in budget talks in Washington. The Dow then slowly recovered in the afternoon.

Investors were encouraged by several positive economic reports, including a higher estimate of third-quarter U.S. economic growth, an increase in home sales and a drop in claims for unemployment benefits.

Investors have been closely watching the talks between the White House and Congress over the fiscal cliff, a reference to sharp government spending cuts and tax increases scheduled to start Jan. 1 unless a deal is reached to cut the budget deficit. New developments have whipsawed the market.

"It's a headline-watching market," said David Brown, chief market strategist of the investment research firm Sabrient Systems.

The Standard & Poor's 500 index rose 0.43 percent to 1,415.95. The Nasdaq composite index rose 0.68 percent to 3,012.03. -- AP