NEW YORK, Feb. 28 (Xinhua) -- The U.S. stocks closed lower on Thursday, giving up all the early gains despite generally upbeat economic data, but still ended February in positive territory.
The Dow Jones Industrial Average lost 20.88 points, or 0.15 percent, to 14,054.49. The Standard & Poor's 500-stock Index inched down 1.31 points, or 0.09 percent, to 1,514.68. The Nasdaq Composite Index dipped 2.07 points, or 0.07 percent, to 3,160.19.
For the month, the Dow gained 1.4 percent, the S&P 500 edged up 1.1 percent, and the Nasdaq advanced 0.6 percent.
The main stock indices responded positively to encouraging economic data released on Thursday after the opening bell.
Real gross domestic product of the United States increased at an annual rate of 0.1 percent in the fourth quarter of 2012, according to the second estimate released on Thursday by the Commerce Department. However, the upwardly-revised reading still fell short of market expectations.
The number of Americans filing initial jobless claims last week stood at 344,000, down 22,000 from the previous week's revised figure, the U.S. Labor Department said on Thursday. The four-week moving average was 355,000, a decrease of 6,750 from the previous week.
The Chicago Purchasing Manager Index in February rose for a second month, up 1.2 points to 56.8, the highest level since last March, according to the ISM-Chicago Business Survey released on Thursday. The index beat analysts' estimates.
The so-called sequester, or across-the-board automatic spending cuts for the U.S. federal government, is set to take effect on March 1. Though it is widely seen as a headwind for the world's largest economy, investors didn't seem much bothered.
"On the one hand, the sequester totaling 85 billion dollars is really a small part compared to the huge federal spending. On the other hand, the market recognizes that the U.S. government and Congress tend to make a compromise in the last minute just as they did in the fiscal negotiations in December," Joseph C. Greco, managing director-trading & sales of Meridian Equity Partners based in New York, told Xinhua Thursday on the phone.
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