North American stocks opened on Thursday morning considerably stronger than futures activity had been suggesting, following an upbeat report on U.S. jobless claims weighed against concerns about Europe's debt crisis and a warning from Moody's Investors Service about global financial firms.
The Dow Jones industrial average rose 17 points or 0.1 per cent, to 12,798. The broader S&P 500 rose less than 1 point, to 1,344. In Canada, the S&P/TSX composite index fell 29 points or 0.2 per cent, to 12,333.
The U.S. Labor Department reported that jobless claims fell by 13,000, to 348,000 for the period ended last week. That's considerably better than the gain in claims that economists had been expecting, and conforms to a recent trend that has seen the U.S. labour market show some strength.
The news wasn't all good though. Investors remain concerned about the situation in Greece, where some European leaders have been contemplating holding back bailout funds and perhaps even letting the country leave the euro zone. At the same time, Moody's has put 17 global financial firms on review for a potential downgrade, rattling the sector.
Still, U.S. banks saw only slight declines: Bank of America Corp. fell 0.6 per cent and JPMorgan Chase & Co. fell 0.1 per cent.
Apple Inc. fell 0.9 per cent, continuing a slide that began on Wednesday over concerns that a trademark dispute in China could disrupt iPad sales there.
General Motors Co. rose 4 per cent, even though its fourth-quarter earnings of $500-million (U.S.) or 39 cents a share on an adjusted basis missed analysts' expectations. Barrick Gold Corp. fell 2.4 per cent after it reported that its adjusted earnings rose 15 per cent over last year, but also disappointed expectations.
Sun Life Financial Inc. fell 1.8 per cent after it reported on Wednesday evening a larger-than-expected quarterly loss of $525-million (Canadian).