United States stocks clawed higher on Thursday as the threat of immediate military action against Syria waned and following a strong reading on the pace of US economic growth.
The Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 16 points, or 0.11%, to close 14,840.95. The S&P 500 tacked on 3.21 points, or 0.2%, to 1,638.17, and the Nasdaq Composite Index rose 26.95 points, or 0.75%, to 3,620.3.
Stocks have stabilised after a frenetic start to the week spurred by escalating tension in Syria. President Barack Obama said Wednesday in an interview with PBS that he hasn't yet made a decision on whether to launch a military attack on Syria. On Thursday, British Prime Minister David Cameron faced pushback presenting the case for military action to the British Parliament.
On Tuesday, the S&P 500 suffered its biggest one-day slide in more than two months amid concerns of an imminent military strike, though the stock index rose 0.3% Wednesday.
Focus shifted back to the US economy with less simmering tension in the Middle East. Early Thursday, a second reading on US gross domestic product was revised up to a 2.5% annual rate, versus an initial estimate of 1.7%. The upward revision was due in part to exports, which grew faster in the April-June period than previously thought.
A separate report showed that first-time claims for unemployment benefits, a proxy for layoffs, fell last week and remain near a five-year lows.
"The long-term economic fundamentals are grinding forward," said Sam Wardwell, investment strategist at Pioneer Investments.
Stocks have had schizophrenic reactions to recent sets of data in recent days, rising last week and Monday following dismal reports on new-home sales and orders for durable goods.
Headed into next month's meeting of Federal Reserve policy makers, traders are watching each fresh data point for signs the economy can stand on its own, without monthly bond purchases from the central bank. The Dow ended Wednesday down 5.3% from its all-time high hit earlier this month, in part on concerns that the Fed will dial back its stimulus efforts.
While Thursday's positive economic data did little to dispel concerns about changes to Fed policy, a thin summer trading session, combined with a reduction in Syria-related tensions, helped contribute to the stock market's gains, said Yousef Abbasi, New York-based market strategist at brokerage JonesTrading Institutional Services.
"It is incredibly light out there, gains seem to be partially on technicals and partially on a reduction in fear," Mr Abbasi said.