RTTNews - Stocks have moved modestly higher in early trading on Thursday, with the major averages seeing some further upside after turning higher over the course of the previous session. With the gains, the major averages continue to regain ground after falling sharply on Monday.

The early strength in the markets is partly due to strong gains by financial stocks, while strength has also emerged in the airline, steel, and networking sectors. Modest strength is also visible in a variety of other sectors.

Traders have elected to continue buying stocks despite the release of a report from the Labor Department showing that first-time claims for unemployment benefits unexpectedly increased in the week ended August 15th.

The report showed that initial jobless claims rose to 576,000 from the previous week's revised figure of 561,000. The increase came as a surprise to economists, who had expected jobless claims to edge down to 550,000 from the 558,000 originally reported for the previous week.

With the unexpected increase, jobless claims rose for the second consecutive week, although they remain well off the highs seen in March.

At the top of the hour, trading could be impacted by the release of the Conference Board's report on leading economic indicators in the month of July as well as the Philadelphia Federal Reserve's regional report on manufacturing activity in the month of August.

Traders are also digesting quarterly results from some big name companies, including Heinz (HNZ), Sears (SHLD), and NetApp (NTAP), along with a number of retailers.

The major averages have continued to move higher in the past few minutes, reaching new highs for the young session. The Dow is currently up 27.51 at 9,306.67, the Nasdaq is up 10.73 at 1,979.97 and the S&P 500 is up 4.70 at 1,001.16.

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