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Stocks open higher after jobless claims data

Another set of successful bond auctions in Europe and a decline in applications for unemployment benefits pused U.S. stocks to a higher opening Thursday.

The number of people seeking unemployment benefits plummeted last week to 352,000, the fewest since April 2008. The decline added to recent evidence that the job market is strengthening.

Solid earnings from Bank of America and MorganStanley bolstered the prevailing optimism. Bank of America returned to profit in the final three months of the year while Morgan Stanley narrowed its losses.

In a sign that investor nervousness over the euro zone's debt crisis was easing, Spain and France both drew strong demand at government debt auctions. 

Talks between Greece and its creditors were proceeding, sources said, but much more progress was needed before a deal was reached on a bond swap. 

Eastman Kodak Co filed for bankruptcy protection and said it obtained a $950 million, 18-month credit facility from Citigroup. 

European shares were higher, trading just below a 5-1/2-month high, as investors awaited the outcome of the Greek talks. 

Asian shares rose to a two-month high on hopes that the International Monetary Fund would boost its resources to help tackle the euro zone debt crisis.

Reuters and The Associated Press contributed to this report.