U.S. stocks closed higher Thursday, with the Dow Jones Industrial Average gaining nearly 100 points, as investors look ahead to Friday’s pivotal jobs report for April. Thursday's gains were driven by the technology sector and snapped two straight days of losses. 

The Dow (INDEXDJX:.DJI) gained 82 points, or 0.46 percent, to close at 17,924. The Standard & Poor’s 500 index (INDEXNASDAQ:.IXIC) gained 8 points, or 0.4 percent, to end at 2,088. And the Nasdaq composite (INDEXSP:.INX) added 25 points, or 0.53 percent, to finish at 4,946.

This is an important week for the financial markets because of the market-moving nature of the U.S. employment report. The U.S. economy added far fewer jobs in March, marking the weakest pace of job growth since 2013.

The employment report is expected to show that employers added 213,000 jobs in April, up from 126,000 in March, according to analysts polled by Thomson Reuters. The unemployment rate is expected to tick down to 5.4 percent from 5.5 percent for March. Average hourly earnings are forecast to increase 0.2 percent, and hours worked are expected to hold steady at 34.5 per week.

If April's job gains turn out to be weak, coupled with the disappointing first-quarter gross domestic product report, it may mean the Fed will likely wait until after its June meeting to raise rates. The central bank met last week and kept interest rates at historic lows.

Home Depot Inc. (NYSE:HD), the world's No. 1 home-improvement retailer, led the blue-chip index Thursday, gaining 1.6 percent. The retailer, which has a market value of $140 billion, announced this week it is aiming to add Apple Pay to its payment options across 2,000 stores, Bloomberg Business reported, making it the largest retailer to accept the iPhone maker's payment option.

The biggest decliner in the Dow Thursday was Exxon Mobil Corporation (NYSE:XOM), the world’s largest publicly traded oil company, falling 0.67 percent.

Technology stocks rebounded Thursday, with Microsoft Corporation (NASDAQ:MSFT), the world’s largest software company, gaining nearly 1 percent, while Apple Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL) gained 0.6 percent.

Shares of Yelp Inc. (NYSE:YELP) soared 23 percent Thursday to $47.01 on reports the consumer review website is exploring a sale that could raise more than $3.5 billion, the Wall Street Journal reported, citing people familiar with the matter. Meanwhile, Whole Foods Market Inc. (NASDAQ:WFM) tumbled 9 percent Thursday after the organic foods retailer missed its revenue forecasts last quarter as sales cooled.

Alibaba Group Holding Ltd. (NYSE:BABA) shares rallied 7.5 percent Thursday to close at $86 after the Chinese online-commerce giant posted quarterly earnings that beat Wall Street forecasts.