* Putin remarks ease concerns over Ukraine escalation
* Cisco shares tumble after results, outlook
* Jobless claims rose more than expected in latest week
* Dow up 0.1 pct, S&P and Nasdaq up 0.2 pct (Updates to market open)
By Ryan Vlastelica
NEW YORK, Aug 14 (Reuters) - U.S. stocks edged higher on Thursday after conciliatory comments by Russian President Vladimir Putin eased concerns about the country’s tense situation with Ukraine and overshadowed signs of weakness in the European economy.
Addressing Russian ministers and members of parliament in Crimea, Putin said Russia would stand up for itself but not at the cost of confrontation with the outside world, a conciliatory note after months of tough rhetoric over the crisis in Ukraine.
Trading has largely been driven by uncertainty over the conflict between Russia and Ukraine of late, with many traders concerned about the potential fallout of any dramatic escalation.
“The situation in Ukraine will only become a problem if it gets much worse, and right now it doesn’t seem like that’s going to be the case, which is helping the market hang in there,” said Brian Battle, director of trading at Performance Trust Capital Partners in Chicago.
“That said, Europe remains a really big problem and it is another signal that global GDP isn’t picking up.”
The latest data out of Europe showed the euro zone’s economy ground to a halt in the second quarter, with Germany - the largest euro zone economy - unexpectedly contracting in the quarter.
The Dow Jones industrial average rose 17.18 points or 0.1 percent, to 16,668.98, the S&P 500 gained 3.39 points or 0.17 percent, to 1,950.11 and the Nasdaq Composite added 7.03 points or 0.16 percent, to 4,441.15.
Wall Street rallied on Wednesday, with the Dow Jones industrial average returning to positive territory for the year. The S&P 500 is about 2 percent below a late-July record close.
Wal-Mart Stores Inc reported flat same-store sales for the second-quarter and cut its full-year profit outlook. Shares of the Dow component were unchanged at $73.99.
Cisco Systems Inc fell 2.9 percent to $24.48 as the S&P 500’s biggest percentage decliner. The company, also a Dow component, gave a tepid outlook Wednesday for its current quarter and announced massive job cuts even as revenue beat expectations.
In the latest U.S. data, jobless claims rose more than expected in the latest week, though the long-term trend was still viewed as positive. The report comes a day after retail sales also pointed to waning economic momentum, though tepid data could give the Federal Reserve support to move slowly on raising interest rates, a situation that favors equities.
The chief executive of NewLink Genetics Corp, which licensed an Ebola vaccine developed by Canadian government scientists, late Wednesday told Reuters it had enough doses on hand to launch the first human safety trial of an Ebola vaccine this summer. Shares jumped 9 percent to $25.54. (Editing by Bernadette Baum and Nick Zieminski)