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US markets close higher with help from energy shares

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(Close): US markets closed higher on Thursday, buoyed by energy shares which rose along with the oil price.

The Dow Jones rose 56.22 to 17,958.73, while the S&P 500 gained 9.28 points to 2,091.18. And the tech-based Nasdaq added 23.74 points to 4,974.56.

Brent crude rose 1.9% to $56.60 per barrel and the price of US oil edged up 0.22% to $50.53.

General Electric shares rose nearly 3% on reports it was planning to sell its real estate holdings.

US media, citing sources, said the firm was close to selling nearly $30bn (£20bn) worth of investments in office buildings and other commercial property.

Investors had fretted that GE's investments in real estate - made through its banking arm, GE Capital - were too risky.

Anadarko Petroleum rose 3.2% and Marathon Oil shares climbed 2.9% on the stabilisation of the oil price.

Metals business Alcoa kicked off the earnings season after the bell on Wednesday, giving a mixed earnings report which led to its shares falling 3.3%.

Shares in game-maker Zynga plunged nearly 18% after the firm said it was bringing back founder Mark Pincus to run the company.