Stocks mostly higher as U.S. job market improves

Specialist Peter Giacchi, right, works at his post

Specialist Peter Giacchi, right, works at his post on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange, Wednesday, March 5, 2014. Stocks are little changed in early trading, a day after setting a record high, as traders were unimpressed by a slight increase in hiring at private companies last month. Photo Credit: AP / Richard Drew

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Investors were searching for any reason to look past the cold weather that has hampered the U.S. economy in the last few weeks, and they found it.

Stocks mostly rose Thursday, lifted by a report that showed the number of people who filed for unemployment benefits fell last week to the lowest level in three months. The gains were enough to give the Standard & Poor's 500 index its third all-time high this week.

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The report on unemployment claims was one of the first bits of good news investors have gotten on the economy after weeks of data that showed the U.S. recovery temporarily slowing because of the severe winter.

The S&P 500 index rose 0.17 percent to 1,877.03.

Staples fell the most of any stock in the index after the office supply chain said it would close 10 percent of its stores. The stock fell $2.05 to $11.35.

Staples is the second major brick-and-mortar retailer this week to announce widespread closures. Two days ago, RadioShack said it would close as many as 1,100 locations as part of a restructuring effort.

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The Dow Jones industrial average rose 61.71 points to 16,421.89. The Nasdaq fell 0.13 percent to 4,352.13. -- AP

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