The report took some of the focus away from the potential for military intervention in Syria, which appears less imminent than it has in recent days. President Barack Obama has said he is not looking for long-term involvement in Syrian affairs and the United Nations refused to sanction a military strike.
The Labor Department said first-time unemployment claims for the week fell by 6,000 in the week to 331,000, the gain mostly offset by a higher revision to the previous week's claims.
Verizon Communications stock jumped 2.71 percent on a report it was in talks with Vodafone to purchase its 45 percent stake in Verizon Wireless. In Europe, Vodafone's shares climbed more than 8 percent Thursday.
The Dow Jones industrial average added 16.44 points or 0.11 percent to close at 14,840.95. The Standard & Poor's 500 added 0.2 percent or 3.21 points to closed at 1,638.17. The Nasdaq exchange added 26.95 points or 0.75 percent to 3,620.30.
On the New York Stock Exchange, 1,958 stocks advanced and 1,087 declined on a volume of 2.5 billion shares traded.
The Nikkei 225 index in Japan added 0.91 percent or 121.25 points to 13,459.721.
The FTSE 100 index in Britain gained 0.82 percent or 152.99 points to 6,483.05.
Emerging markets rebounded. The Bovespa index in Brazil added 0.11 percent to 49,921.88. The Sensex index in India jumped 2.25 percent to close at 18,401.04.
The 10-year benchmark U.S. treasury bond rose 1/32 to yield 2.765 percent.
The euro rose to $1.3236 while the dollar fell to 98.32 yen.
In after hours trading, crude oil on the New York Mercantile Exchange shed $1.90 or 1.7 percent to $108.20. per barrel.
On the Comex division, gold shed $12.10 to reach $1,406.70 per troy ounce, off 0.85 percent. Silver dropped 53.4 cents to reach $23.905 per ounce, off 2.1 percent.
On the Chicago Board of Trade, December delivery corn held steady at $4.80 3/4 per bushel. November soybeans lost 3 3/4 cents to $13.69. December wheat shed 5 1/2 cents to reach $6.54.
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