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Jobless Claims Steady, Markets Open Higher

The markets opened higher with the Dow adding 21 points to 12,960 as jobless claims held steady at the lowest level since the recession. Nasdaq rose 5 points to 2939.

On the upside

A Food and Drug Administration advisory committee recommended approval for Vivus' (Nasdaq: VVUS) obesity treatment Qnexa. The news also lifted rivals Arena Pharmaceuticals (Nasdaq: ARNA) and Orexigen Therapeutics (Nasdaq: OREX).

A district judged ruled that only BP (NYSE: BP) and Andarko Petroleum (NYSE: APC), not Transocean (NYSE: RIG), were responsible parties in the Deepwater Horizon oil spill.

MetroPCS (NYSE: PCS) impressed with sharply higher fourth quarter earnings that surpassed analyst expectations.

On the downside

Genco Shipping (NYSE: GNK) priced its offering of 7.5 million common shares at the discounted price of $7.10 per share.

Safeway (NYSE: SWY) blamed higher commodity expenses for lower fourth quarter earnings.

Hewlett-Packard (NYSE: HPQ) disappointed with sharply lower fourth quarter earnings and forecast current quarter results below analyst estimates.

In the broad market, advancing issues outpaced decliners by a margin of more than 7 to 5 on the NYSE and by more than 9 to 7 on Nasdaq. The Russell 2000 which tracks small cap stocks added 2 points to 819.

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