Stocks slightly higher; Dow goes for 7 in a row

DANIEL WAGNER AP Business Writer Published:

Stocks recorded small gains Thursday after a pair of positive economic reports. The Dow Jones industrial average tried to extend its longest winning streak in a year.

Just after 10:30 a.m. EDT, the Dow was up 17 points at 13,210. The Standard & Poor's 500 index was up four at 1,398. The Nasdaq composite average was up 11 points at 3,051.

A higher close for the Dow would mark its seventh consecutive gain. The last longer streak was eight days in February 2011.

Applications for unemployment benefits fell last week to 351,000, matching a four-year low. When applications drop consistently below 375,000, it usually signals that hiring is strong enough to lower the unemployment rate.

A separate report showed that prices paid by wholesalers rose less than expected in February, despite a spike in gasoline prices. The producer price index has increased 3.3 percent in the past year, the smallest gain since August 2010.

World markets were mixed, with a welcome slip in oil prices offset by worries about slowing growth in China.

Oil traded below $106 a barrel, a day after a government report showed rising crude inventories, an indication of low demand.

In Asia, markets mostly fell after Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao said curbs that have slowed a run-up in housing prices will remain in place, despite fears that the effort could contribute to the nation's economic slowdown.

The benchmark Shanghai Composite Index lost 0.7 percent. But Hong Kong's Hang Seng closed 0.2 percent higher, and Japan's Nikkei index rose 0.7 percent as the yen continued to decline from record highs against the U.S. dollar.

France's CAC 40 was down 0.2 percent, London's FTSE 100 down 0.3 percent. The German DAX index was up 0.3 percent.

Among the stocks making big moves on Thursday:

-- Cisco Systems Inc. slipped 1 percent after it announced a $5 billion deal to buy NDS Group Ltd. from News Corp. Shares of the owner of Fox News and The Wall Street Journal edged higher.

-- Sears Holdings Corp. shares gained 1 percent after the troubled department store chain said its top investor tried to ease vendors' concerns early this year by taking on some of the risk that they would face if Sears filed for bankruptcy.

-- Sundance Channel owner AMC Networks Inc. dropped 3 percent after the Cablevision spinoff said its fourth-quarter earnings fell short of analysts' estimates.