Stocks finished higher Thursday, but off the best levels of the day.
The Dow Jones industrial average, up more than 80 points in early trading, finished with a gain of 16.44 points at 14,840.95. The Nasdaq Composite Index rose 26.95 points to 3,620.30 and the S&P 500 stock index added 3.21 points to 1,638.17.
The markets were calm as the situation in Syria held steady while global governments and the United Nations considered options to deal with the dispute. The markets were also affected by a report showing the U.S. economy grew by 2.5 percent in the second quarter, above the initial reading of 1.7 percent.
Oil prices dipped on the stalemate in the Middle East. Crude fell $1.30 to $108.90 a barrel. Gold also fell, down $5.90 to $1,412.90 an ounce.
Jobless claims in the week ended Aug. 24 dropped 6,000 to 331,000 from a revised 337,000 the week before that was higher than initially reported, the Labor Department said Thursday in Washington. The median forecast of 50 economists surveyed by Bloomberg called for a drop to 332,000.
“We’re back to focusing on economic data, specifically out of the U.S. and Europe, and the Fed tapering, as the market is coming around to believe the Syrian conflict poses only a short-term risk,” said Manish Singh, who helps oversee $2 billion as head of investment at Crossbridge Capital in London. “I am of the opinion that tapering will happen in September, regardless of data.”
About 4.8 billion shares changed hands on U.S. exchanges. Trading is poised for the second-slowest month in at least five years, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. An average of about 5.5 billion shares changed hands each day this month. That’s about 50 million shares more than last August.
The Chicago Board Options Exchange Volatility Index, or VIX, increased 1.9 percent to 16.81. The equity volatility gauge has surged 42 percent since a five-month low on Aug. 5.
Verizon Communications Inc. (NYSE: VZ) added 2.7 percent as Vodafone Group Plc (Nasdaq: VOD) said the companies are in talks over their Verizon Wireless venture. Guess? Inc. (NYSE: GES) rallied 13 percent after the apparel maker reported second-quarter profit that exceeded analysts’ estimates. Exxon Mobil Corp. (NYSE: XOM) lost 1.8 percent as oil futures fell from a two-year high.
Eight out of 10 main groups in the S&P 500 rose, with phone companies advancing 1.2 percent to lead gains.
Verizon Communications rose 2.7 percent to $47.82. The company is in advanced talks to acquire Vodafone’s 45 percent stake in their Verizon Wireless venture for about $130 billion, people with knowledge of the matter said.
In a statement, Newbury, England-based Vodafone said there’s “no certainty that an agreement will be reached” as it holds discussions with New York-based Verizon. Bob Varettoni, a spokesman for Verizon, declined to comment.
Microsoft Corp. (Nasdaq: MSFT) rose 1.6 percent to $33.55. Microsoft is in talks with Foursquare Labs Inc. about a potential investment in the social-media company, according to people with knowledge of the discussions.
An S&P index of homebuilders climbed 2.5 percent, after dropping 3.7 percent over the previous two days. PulteGroup Inc. (NYSE: PHM) rose 3.1 percent to $15.86 and Lennar Corp. (NYSE: LEN) advanced 3.2 percent to $32.62.
The Bloomberg U.S. Airlines Index rose 2 percent as US Airways Group Inc. (NYSE: LCC) advanced 4 percent to $15.96. Delta Air Lines Inc. (NYSE: DAL) jumped 2.7 percent to $19.64.
Guess soared 13 percent to $30.82. Second-quarter adjusted earnings per share amounted to 52 cents, exceeding the average estimate of 35 cents in a survey of analysts. The company raised its full-year earnings guidance to $1.78 to $1.92 a share, from a previous prediction of $1.70 to $1.90. Analysts had forecast $1.79.
Exxon Mobil declined 1.8 percent to $87.27, while Chevron Corp. (NYSE: CVX) lost 1.2 percent to $120.37. Oil futures retreated 1.2 percent after climbing to the highest level since May 2011 Wednesday.
Campbell Soup Co. (NYSE: CPB) fell 3.1 percent to $43.33 after the company reported fourth-quarter sales lower than analysts’ estimates.