U.S. stocks traded mildly higher Thursday, struggling to shake off early losses following a decline in oil prices that weighed on the energy sector. Investors also sorted through a series of mixed retail sales and jobless-claims data, searching for further hints as to when the U.S. Federal Reserve will lift interest rates this year.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average (INDEXDJX:.DJI) added 5.11 points, or 0.03 percent, to 17,407.62. The Standard & Poor’s 500 index (INDEXSP:.INX) edged down 1.26 points, or 0.07 percent, to 2,084.46. And the Nasdaq composite (INDEXNASDAQ:.IXIC) rose 3.38 points, or 0.07 percent, to 5,047.77.

U.S. retail sales bounced back in July, rising 0.6 percent last month after coming in flat in June, the Commerce Department said Thursday. The gains were boosted by auto purchases, which signal consumer spending is off to a solid start in the third quarter following tepid growth at the start of the year due to winter weather.

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