* Jobless claims at three-month low
* Staples, Costco shares down after results
* Crimea's parliament votes to join Russia
* Indexes up: Dow 0.5 pct, S&P 0.3 pct, Nasdaq 0.1 pct
By Rodrigo Campos
NEW YORK, March 6 U.S. stocks rose in early
trading on Thursday, with the S&P 500 at a fresh record intraday
high following upbeat labor market data, while traders kept an
eye on developments in Ukraine.
In a boost to riskier assets, the euro hit its highest
against the U.S. dollar since late December after the European
Central Bank kept interest rates on hold, shaking out bets of a
cut in rates.
Crimea's parliament voted on Thursday to join Russia and its
Moscow-backed government set a referendum for March 16 on the
decision, in an escalation of the crisis between Russia and the
West over the Ukrainian Black Sea peninsula.
Moscow stocks lost more than 2 percent after the vote
in Crimea but pared the losses and were down 1 percent. The
ruble weakened 0.4 percent versus the U.S. dollar. A
U.S.-traded Russian ETF fell 0.6 percent to $23.52.
"Nobody wants to go to war and Russians don't want to get
their market cut in half, so that eventually has to settle
down," said John Manley, chief equity strategist at Wells Fargo
Funds Management in New York. He said the call for a referendum
can be seen as a cooling in the crisis as politics prevail over
a possible armed conflict.
European Union leaders were set to warn, not sanction,
Russia. U.S. President Barack Obama ordered the freezing of U.S.
assets and a ban on travel into the United States of those
involved in the Russian military intervention in Ukraine.
Weekly applications for U.S. unemployment insurance fell to
323,000, the lowest in three months, a sign of strength in a
labor market that has been hobbled by severe weather. New orders
for U.S. factory goods, however, fell more than expected in
January and shipments also slipped, adding to signs of a recent
slowdown in manufacturing activity.
"Indicators have been so subject to distortion that you have
try to find the explanation that makes the most amount of
sense," Manley said.
"The basic fundamentals for the market are okay. Constraints
that the weather imposed are temporary."
The Dow Jones industrial average rose 74.33 points or
0.45 percent, to 16,434.51, the S&P 500 gained 5.61
points or 0.3 percent, to 1,879.42 and the Nasdaq Composite
added 6.026 points or 0.14 percent, to 4,364.
Stocks in the basic materials, financials and industrial
sectors, often associated with strong economic fundamentals, led
gains on the S&P 500.
Costco shares fell 3.1 percent to $112.90 after the
warehouse club operator's quarterly profit fell 15 percent,
missing analysts' estimates.
Shares of Staples dropped 15.5 percent to $11.33
after the largest U.S. office supplies retailer forecast a fall
in sales and said it would close up to 225 stores in North
America by 2015.