(By Balachander) U.S. stocks closed modestly higher ahead of the Thanksgiving holiday, weighed by reports that Israel and Hamas have agreed to a cease fire.
The S&P 500 Index gained 0.23 percent to end at 1,391.03. The Dow Jones Industrial Average finished at 12,836.89, up 0.38 percent. The Nasdaq Composite Index added 0.34 percent to close at 2,926.55.
Israel and the Islamist militant group Hamas agreed to a Gaza ceasefire deal, Reuters reported quoting a Palestinian official with knowledge of talks.
Investors also digested a mixed set of domestic data and news that euro-area finance ministers failed yet again to reach an agreement on next bailout tranche to Greece. The European officials will meet again on Monday to complete further technical work amid hopes of reaching a final agreement on a debt-reduction package for Greece.
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The number of Americans who continued to receive jobless benefits dropped sharply last week, a government data showed. Jobless claims fell 41,000 to 410,000 for the week ended Nov. 17 from a revised 451,000, and matched economists projections.
In other data, the Reuters and the University of Michigan consumer sentiment index for November fell to 82.7 from the mid-month reading of 84.9. The Conference Board's U.S. leading economic indicators index rose 0.2 percent last month after a downwardly revised 0.6 percent increase in September.
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The markets will be shut for Thanksgiving holiday on Thursday and close early on Friday.
Hot Stocks Of The Day: STJ, CRM, DE, SCHL, ZLC, VVUS, SKX, SQNM
In corporate news, St. Jude Medical Inc. (NYSE: STJ) retreated 12.15 percent after reports that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) raised safety concerns about one of the company's key products. Wells Fargo downgraded rating on the stock to "Market Perform".
salesforce.com Inc. (NYSE: CRM) surged 8.83 percent after the enterprise cloud computing company raised its full-year forecast following stronger-than-expected third quarter results.
Deere & Co. (NYSE: DE) shed 3.67 percent after the agricultural and turf equipment company's fourth-quarter earnings trailed Wall Street projections.
Scholastic Corp. (NASDAQ: SCHL) tumbled 18.18 percent after the provider of educational technology products reduced its guidance for 2013 amid lower curriculum product sales and a delay in purchasing decisions.
Zale Corp. (NYSE: ZLC) slumped 29.97 percent after the retailer of fine jewelry reported results for the first quarter that missed market expectations.
VIVUS Inc. (NASDAQ: VVUS) spiked 13.33 percent after health insurer Aetna (NYSE: AET) decided to provide coverage for the company's obesity drug Qsymia.
Sketchers USA Inc. (NYSE: SKX) spiked 10.14 percent after Susquehanna upgraded rating on the stock to "Positive" from "Neutral".
Sequenom Inc. (NASDAQ: SQNM) jumped 15.18 percent after a committee of the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists recommended that cell-free fetal DNA testing be offered to patients at increased risk of aneuploidy, a type of chromosome abnormality.
Donaldson Company Inc. (NYSE: DCI) shed 1.39 percent after the maker of filtration systems posted a fall in first-quarter profit and sales and cuts its sales guidance assuming weaker demand from its Engine OEM and Disk Drive Customers.
European markets ended higher, with Germany's DAX advancing 0.16 percent to close at 7,184.71. France's CAC40 rose 0.44 percent to finish at 3,477.36. The U.K.'s FTSE 100 gained 0.07 percent to end at 5,752.03.
Among Asian markets, China's Shanghai Stock Exchange Composite Index added 1.07 percent to finish at 2,030.32. Japan's Nikkei 225 gained 0.87 percent to end at 9,222.52. Hong Kong's Hang Seng Index jumped 1.39 percent to end at 21,524.36. India's BSE Sensex ended at 18,460.38, up 0.72 percent.
Commodity & Currency Scan
Crude oil futures added 1.10 percent to $87.70 per barrel, and natural gas futures rose 1.85 percent to $3.90 per million metric British thermal units. Gold futures gained 0.34 percent to $1,729.5 per ounce and silver futures jumped 1.25 percent to $33.34 per ounce.
In the currency market, the euro added 0.06 percent against the U.S. dollar to 1.2825. The British pound gained 0.18 percent against the greenback to 1.5954, and the dollar climbed 1.04 percent against the Japanese yen at 82.5300.