U.S. stocks edged higher Thursday, with the Dow Jones Industrial Average briefly jumping more than 100 points in morning trading, after fewer Americans filed new claims for unemployment benefits last week. The data eased concerns on the health of the U.S. labor market ahead of Friday’s jobs report, after a separate report earlier this week revealed fewer jobs were created in the private sector last month.
In morning trading Thursday, the Dow Jones Industrial Average (INDEXDJX:.DJI) gained more than 100 points, or 0.55 percent, to 17,811.22. The Standard & Poor's 500 (INDEXNASDAQ:.IXIC) added 9.43 points, or 0.46 percent, to 2,069.12. The Nasdaq composite (INDEXSP:.INX) rose 11.93 points, or 0.24 percent, to 4,892.16.
The number of Americans filing new claims for unemployment benefits unexpectedly fell to a nine-week low last week after initial claims for state unemployment benefits dropped 20,000 to a seasonally adjusted 268,000 for the week ended March 28, the Labor Department said Thursday. Economists had expected claims to rise 3,000 to total 285,000 last week, according to analysts polled by Thomson Reuters.
Shares of Lumber Liquidators Holdings Inc. (NYSE:LL) gained nearly 1 percent Thursday to $33.32 after the retailer of hardwood flooring said its first quarter sales rose 5.6 percent, topping Wall Street estimates. However, Lumber Liquidators said its same store sales were hurt in March, dropping nearly 18 percent, following the controversy surrounding a "60 Minutes" report on alleged safety problems with the company’s flooring. The company's shares have lost more than 36 percent, or $18.78, in the last month.
Oil prices briefly dropped more than 4 percent Thursday afternoon after officials announced a press event on nuclear talks between Iran and world powers regarding a nuclear deal that could ease Western sanctions. West Texas Intermediate crude, the benchmark for U.S. oil prices, lost more than 1 percent to $49.40 a barrel, for May 15 delivery, on the New York Mercantile Exchange. Brent crude, the benchmark for global oil prices, fell more nearly 3 percent to $55.41 a barrel, for May 15 delivery, on the London ICE Futures Exchange.