RTTNews - Stocks moved higher at the start of trading on Thursday, with the major averages moving back to the upside after ending the previous session in the red. The initial strength was partly due to the release of some encouraging employment data.

Before the start of trading, the Labor Department released a report showing that initial jobless claims fell to 550,000 in the week ended August 1st from the previous week's revised figure of 588,000. Economists had been expecting jobless claims to edge down to 580,000.

While initial claims remain off the six-month low of 524,000 set in the week ended July 11th, the Labor Department noted that the data no longer includes the seasonal issues in the auto sector that skewed the data artificially lower.

Additionally, the report showed that the less volatile four-week moving average fell to 555,250 from the previous week's revised average of 560,000.

With the decrease, the four-week moving average extended a recent decline, falling for the sixth consecutive week to reach a new six-month low.

Retail stocks are seeing notable strength in early trading, as traders react positively to the release of a slew of monthly sales results. While real estate, gold, and networking stocks are also seeing early strength, some weakness has emerged in the healthcare provider sector.

In the past few minutes, the major averages have pulled back well off their highs for the young session, although they remain modestly higher. The Dow is currently up 20.94 at 9,301.91, the Nasdaq is up 4.58 at 1,997.63 and the S&P 500 is up 2.40 at 1,005.12.

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