U.S. stocks edged higher Thursday after the European Central Bank boosted the eurozone’s growth forecasts and announced it will begin its massive monetary stimulus program Monday. The move will pump more than $1 trillion into the eurozone economy, aiming to help boost economic growth and bring inflation back to the ECB's 2 percent target.
The Dow Jones Industrial Average, which measures the share prices of 30 large industrial companies, gained 42.16 points, or 0.23 percent, to 18,139.06. The S&P 500 stock index added 3.31 points, or 0.16 percent, to 2,101.66. The Nasdaq composite rose 16.67 points, or 0.34 percent, to 4,983.30.
The ECB will start its $1.1 trillion quantitative easing program on March 9, with expectations to end it in September 2016, ECB President Mario Draghi said during a press conference Thursday. The central bank also boosted its economic growth forecasts for the eurozone for 2015 and 2016 to 1.5 percent and 1.9 percent, respectively.
Separately, U.S. jobless claims rose more than expected last week, rising to their highest level in nine months. Initial claims for unemployment benefits rose 7,000 last week to a seasonally adjusted 320,000, the Labor Department said Thursday. Economists had expected initial claims for unemployment benefits to decline by 18,000 to 295,000 last week, according to analysts polled by Thomson Reuters.
U.S. oil prices fell in morning trading Thursday, but still traded above $50 a barrel despite a report a day earlier that showed oil inventories surged to the highest level on record, igniting concerns over supply glut. West Texas Intermediate crude, the benchmark for U.S. oil prices, fell 0.7 percent to $51.17 a barrel, for April 15 delivery on the New York Mercantile Exchange. Brent crude, the benchmark for global oil prices, edged up 0.45 percent to $60.82 a barrel, for April 15 delivery on the London ICE Futures Exchange.