• The number of Americans seeking unemployment benefits fell 26,000 last week to 359,000, the lowest figure in nine weeks. A figure consistently below 375,000 is generally enough to lower the unemployment rate.
• The number of Americans who signed contracts to buy previously occupied homes fell in August from a two-year high in July. The National Association of Realtors’ sales index is still 10 percent higher than it was a year ago.
In Europe, stocks came back from one of their worst days in months. The benchmark stock index finished 0.7 percent higher in France and 0.2 percent higher in Germany and Britain.
Borrowing costs for financially troubled Spain and Italy also edged down, a positive sign.
In the U.S., demand for government bonds fell, generally an indication that investors are more willing to embrace risk. The yield on the 10-year note, which moves opposite the price, rose 0.03 percentage point to 1.65 percent.
The price of crude oil rose $1.87 per barrel to $91.85 as concerns mounted about a potential military confrontation over Iran’s nuclear program. Oil had dropped $9 a barrel in two weeks.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu warned at the United Nations that Iran will have enough enriched uranium to make a nuclear bomb by next summer and urged the world to draw a “red line” to stop it.
The dollar fell against the euro and pound but rose against the yen.
Among other U.S. companies making moves:
• Tempur-Pedic International, the mattress company, climbed $3.86, or 14.4 percent, to $30.64 after announcing it would buy a rival, Sealy, for about $229 million in cash.
• Discover Financial Services rose $2.69, or 7.3 percent, to $39.71. It reported a slight earnings decline in its latest quarter but beat Wall Street expectations. It also said credit card use increased and more customers paid off cards on time.
• GE hit a four-year high after the company told analysts it expects industrial revenue to rise about 10 percent this year. GE gained 63 cents, or 2.9 percent, to $22.73 in afternoon trading. They rose as high as $22.86.