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US stocks creep higher following earnings news

NEW YORK (AP) -- The U.S. stock market crept higher Thursday following a mixed batch of corporate news. In Europe, investors brushed aside more worrying news on the economy and nudged markets up.

KEEPING SCORE: As of 2:10 p.m. Eastern time, the Standard & Poor's 500 index was up six points, or 0.3 percent, to 1,953. The Dow Jones industrial average gained 41 points, or 0.3 percent, to 16,697 while the Nasdaq composite climbed 12 points, or 0.3 percent, to 4,446.

GOING UP: A jump in profits for Perrigo, a drugmaker, drove its stock up 6 percent, the biggest gain in the S&P 500. Perrigo's earnings and sales came in ahead of analysts' estimates. The stock gained $8.54 to $147.69

CISCO SLIPS: After the market closed Wednesday, Cisco Systems reported falling quarterly sales and profits. The technology company also announced plans to lay off 6,000 workers, roughly 8 percent of its workforce. Cisco's stock dropped 64 cents, or 3 percent, to $24.57.

BERKSHIRE BUMP: The most expensive U.S. stock just got a little bit more pricey. The Class A shares of Warren Buffett's Berkshire Hathaway conglomerate traded above $200,000 for the first time. Buffett has never split Berkshire's A shares, although he did create more affordable Class B shares that now sell for $134. The Class A shares rose $3,019, or 2 percent, to $202,628.

JOBS: The Labor Department said more people applied for U.S. unemployment benefits last week. Applications climbed 21,000 to 311,000, and the less volatile four-week average rose, too. Still, applications for aid remain near levels last seen before recession gripped the country.

COMMENT: The S&P 500 is still hovering near record highs, and some analysts to fret that stocks look expensive. Lawrence Creatura, a fund manager at Federated Investors, argued that another strong earnings season should put investors' worries about high prices to rest.

The S&P 500, for instance, has gained nearly 6 percent this year. “That's an interesting number: 6 percent just happens to be the average earnings growth rate over the very long term,” he said.

IN EUROPE: Both France's CAC 40 and Germany's DAX closed with gains of 0.3 percent. Britain's FTSE 100 rose 0.4 percent.

EUROPE'S SLUMP: The advances in Europe came despite figures showing that the two major economies in the 18-country eurozone cast doubt over the recovery. Germany's economy shrank 0.2 percent from April to June, while the French economy stagnated.

ONE TAKE: “Investors appear to be betting that the continued raft of disappointing economic data could compel the European Central Bank to take further steps to help try and boost economic activity before the end of the year,” said Michael Hewson, chief market analyst at CMC Markets.

RETAIL: Kohl's, a department-store chain, turned in quarterly profits that were slightly better than analysts' expectations. Sales slipped but the company cut costs. Kohl's surged $1.68, or 3 percent, to $56.80.

BONDS AND OIL: In the market for US government bonds, the yield on the 10-year Treasury note fell to 2.41 percent. Earlier, it touched 2.38 percent, its lowest level this year. Benchmark crude oil was down $1.89 to $95.70 on the New York Mercantile Exchange.

METALS: The price of gold edged up $1.20 to $1,315.70 an ounce. Silver rose six cents to $19.91 an ounce. Copper fell two cents to $3.09 a pound.

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