The Census Bureau News said durable goods orders rose 9.9 percent in September compared to August, far exceeding the consensus forecast that called for a 6.9 percent gain.
The Labor Department said first-time jobless benefit claims dropped by 23,000 to 369,000 in the week that ended Saturday. Weekly jobless claims figures, which have been especially volatile in recent weeks, fell by 30,000 to a 56-month low two weeks ago and shooting up by 46,000 last week.
Stock gains were muted, however, as investors had trouble shaking off doldrums brought on by disappointing third quarter corporate reports.
By close of trading, the Dow Jones industrial average added 26.34 points or 0.2 percent to 13,103.68. The Nasdaq composite index gained 4.42 points or 0.15 percent to 2,986.12. The Standard and Poor's 500 index reclaimed 4.22 points or 0.3 percent to 1,412.97.
On the New York Stock Exchange, 1,796 stocks advanced and 1,217 declined on a volume of 3.5 billion shares traded.
The benchmark 10-year treasury note fell 11/32 to yield 1.83 percent.
The euro fell to $1.2934 from Wednesday's $1.2973. Against the yen, the dollar rose to 80.30 yen from 79.81 yen.
In Japan, the Nikkei 225 index added 1.13 percent, 100.90 points, to 9,055.20.
In London, the FTSE 100 index rose less than 0.01 percent, adding 0.27 points to 5,805.05.
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