A DECENT START: Stocks got off to a decent start Thursday after the government reported that fewer people applied for unemployment benefits last week than in any week since July.
A WEAK FINISH: Trading turned mixed to lower for the rest of the day. The Dow Jones industrial average lost about 12 points and other indexes had minor gains.
3M DISAPPOINTS: 3M and Avon were among the companies providing downbeat news in earnings reports. Avon said results in emerging markets were weak, while 3M said growth in the U.S. and Europe was "uninspiring."