U.S. stocks traded higher Thursday as the number of Americans filing new claims for unemployment insurance remained close to a 15-year low, another sign -- before the jobs report Friday -- that the labor market continues to strengthen. Technology stocks led all three major U.S. indexes higher, with the Dow Jones Industrial Average climbing almost 100 points, rebounding from the previous day’s losses.
In morning trading, the Dow (INDEXDJX:.DJI) added 86 points, or 0.48 percent, to 17,928. The Standard & Poor’s 500 index (INDEXNASDAQ:.IXIC) gained 8 points, or 0.40 percent, to 2,088. And the Nasdaq composite (INDEXSP:.INX) tacked on 23 points, or 0.47 percent, to 4,942.
Much of the focus in the remainder of this week will be on the U.S. nonfarm payroll numbers for April, due out Friday, after a March report that showed a sharp slowdown in hiring.
Data showed the number of Americans filing claims for state unemployment benefits rose slightly last week, but remained near a 15-year low as claims rose 3,000 to a seasonally adjusted 265,000 for the week ended May 2, the Labor Department said Thursday. Economists had expected last week’s jobless claims to rise by 16,000, to 280,000, according to analysts polled by Thomson Reuters.
The Microsoft Corp. (NASDAQ:MSFT), the world’s largest software company, led the blue-chip index Thursday, gaining 1.3 percent to $46.88, as technology companies rebounded after posting losses the previous session. Meanwhile, the chipmaker Intel Corp. (NASDAQ:INTC) and tech giant Apple Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL) gained 1 percent and 0.6 percent, respectively.
Among the biggest decliners in the Dow Thursday were the Exxon Mobil Corp. (NYSE:XOM), the world’s largest publicly traded oil company, and Caterpillar Inc. (NYSE:CAT), the world’s largest construction and mining equipment maker, both falling more than 1 percent.
Meanwhile, shares of Alibaba Group Holding Ltd. (NYSE:BABA) jumped almost 8 percent Thursday, rising as high as $89.29, after the Chinese online-commerce giant turned in quarterly earnings that topped Wall Street forecasts, as revenue leaped 45 percent, boosted by mobile transactions. The company also announced Daniel Zhang, chief operating officer, will replace Jonathan Lu as CEO, effective Sunday.
The S&P 500 information-technology sector added 0.5 percent, with Yahoo Inc. (NASDAQ:YHOO) leaping more than 6 percent as the company is making more than $3 billion on its current stake in Alibaba. Yahoo owns just over 15 percent of Alibaba’s outstanding shares, according to its latest regulatory filings with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission. Yahoo announced in January it plans to spin off its remaining $40 billion stake in Alibaba, which is expected to happen in the fourth quarter of this year.