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US stocks edge higher in midday trading

AP Business Writer

U.S. stock indexes drifted higher in morning trading Thursday, getting a lift from a pickup in U.S. home sales and data showing a decline in weekly applications for unemployment benefits. Investors also weighed soft economic data out of China and Europe that stoked concerns about a global slowdown.

KEEPING SCORE: The Standard & Poor's 500 index rose four points, or 0.2 percent, to 2,052 as of 11:14 a.m. Eastern time. The Dow Jones industrial average gained five points, or less than 0.1 percent, to 17,690. The Nasdaq composite added 23 points, or 0.5 percent, to 4,698. All three indexes had been lower in early trading.

HOME SALES: Sales of previously occupied U.S. homes jumped last month to the briskest pace this year. The National Association of Realtors said sales rose 1.5 percent last month to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 5.26 million. October marked the first month in 2014 when sales increased compared to a year ago, registering a 2.5 percent gain. The report helped lift shares in most homebuilders. Beazer Homes USA led the gainers, adding 54 cents, or 2.7 percent, to $20.07.

RETAIL STANDOUT: Best Buy reported higher earnings and revenue in the third quarter, beating Wall Street expectations. The results are a positive sign for the electronics retailer as the holiday season kicks off. Best Buy's shares jumped $2.74, or 7.6 percent, to $38.28.

BIG DECLINER: Keurig Green Mountain fell 8.9 percent to lead the decliners in the S&P 500 index. The stock fell $13.70 to $140.25.

GLOBAL ECONOMIC WORRIES: A broad gauge of business activity in the 18-country eurozone fell this month to a 16-month low, stirring concerns that the region could be headed for another recession. In China, a preliminary survey of factory activity showed manufacturing in the world's second-largest economy slid to a six-month low this month.

INFLATION IN CHECK: U.S. consumer prices were unchanged in October, as low gasoline costs continued to keep inflation at bay. For the past 12 months, overall inflation is up 1.7 percent, while core inflation, which excludes volatile energy and food prices, is up 1.8 percent. Both gains are below the Federal Reserve's 2 percent inflation target, giving the central bank leeway to keep interest rates low.

LAYOFFS BELLWETHER: The Labor Department said applications for unemployment benefits fell slightly last week to a seasonally adjusted 291,000. The applications, which are a proxy for layoffs, have fallen 16 percent in the past 12 months.

OVERSEAS MARKETS: In Europe, France's CAC 40 dropped 0.9 percent, while Germany's DAX shed 0.2 percent. Britain's FTSE 100 was off 0.2 percent. In Asia, Japan's Nikkei 225 inched up 0.1 percent, while South Korea's Kospi slipped 0.5 percent. China's Shanghai Composite rose 0.1 percent, while Australia's S&P/ASX 200 fell 1 percent. Hong Kong's Hang Seng shed 0.1 percent. Markets in Southeast Asia also fell.

ENERGY: Benchmark U.S. crude rose 42 cents to $74.92 a barrel in New York.

BONDS: U.S. government bond prices rose. The yield on the 10-year Treasury note fell to 2.34 percent from 2.36 percent late Wednesday.

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