U.S. stocks closed with a second day of gains erasing almost all of the losses from earlier in the week, despite a mixed bag of economic news. The S&P 500 gained 1.4% and NASDAQ 1.3%.
- Initial claims for state unemployment benefits increased 13,000 last week to a seasonally adjusted 380,000, the Labor Department said on Thursday, defying economists' expectations of a drop to 355,000. The prior week's count was revised to show 10,000 more applications than previously reported.
- The Commerce Department reported the nation's trade gap shrank 12.4 percent to $46 billion in February as exports hit a record high. It was the biggest month-to-month decline in the trade shortfall since May 2009. Exports rose to a record $181.2 billion, while imports dropped to $227.2 billion.
- The Labor Department said prices received by U.S. producers were unchanged in March after advancing 0.4 percent in February, while wholesale prices excluding volatile food and energy costs rose 0.3 percent. In the 12 months through March, wholesale prices rose 2.8 percent, after advancing 3.3 percent in February.
Gold rose $20.30 to finish at $1,680.60 an ounce and silver rose $1, or 3.2 percent, to $32.525 an ounce. Benchmark oil prices rose 94 cents to finish at $103.64 per barrel.
British shares gained 1.3% while both German and French shares added 1.0%.
Japanese stocks added 0.7% while Chinese stocks rose 1.8%. Investors were encouraged after China's central bank reported an unexpected increase in loans last month.