RTTNews - Stocks are moving mostly higher in mid-morning trading on Thursday, as positive data on manufacturing activity helped to offset any negative sentiment generated by a disappointing jobs report. The major averages are all in positive territory, adding to the gains posted in the two previous sessions.

Manufacturing activity in the mid-Atlantic region showed some signs of stabilizing, according to data released by the Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia, with the index of activity in the sector unexpectedly climbing into positive territory in August.

The Philly Fed said its index of current activity rose to 4.2 in August from a negative 7.5 in July, with a positive reading indicating growth in the sector. Economists had been expecting a more modest increase to a negative 2.0.

With the bigger than expected increase, the index rose above zero for the first time since September of 2008 and reached its highest level since November of 2007.

In a separate report, the Conference Board said its index of leading economic indicators rose 0.6 percent in July following a 0.7 percent increase in June. This marked the fourth consecutive month of gains for the index.

Before the start of trading, the Labor Department released a report 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.

In earnings news, diversified retailer Sears Holdings (SHLD) reported a net loss of $0.17 per share for the second quarter, hurt by an 8.6 percent drop in comparable same store sales. Analysts expected the company report a profit of $0.35 per share for the quarter.

Data storage equipment maker NetApp Inc. (NTAP) said its first quarter profit increased from last year, helped by proceeds from the termination of the Data Domain deal.

The major averages have shown a notable move to the upside in recent trading, reaching new highs for the session. The Dow is currently up 53.28 at 9,332.44, the Nasdaq is up 18.42 at 1,987.66 and the S&P 500 is up 9.57 at 1,006.03.

Sector News

Commercial real estate and banking stocks are rising by notable margins, with the Morgan Stanley REIT Index and the Kbw Banking Index advancing by 2.3 percent and 2.8 percent, respectively. Despite the gains, the indices remain stuck in recent ranges.

Internet stocks are also moving notably higher, with the NYSE Arca Internet Index posting a 1.4 percent gain. The index is bouncing off of a one month low, helped by shares of Ciena Corp (CIEN), which are up by 1 percent. Ciena is adding to its recent gains, looking to set a fresh eleven-month closing high.

Airline, railroad, healthcare provider and housing stocks are also seeing considerable upside, although they largely remain stuck in the recent ranges. However, the Morgan Stanley Healthcare Provider Index is posting a gain of 1.4 percent, moving to the high end of a three-week trading range.

Stocks Driven By Analyst Comments

Shares of Jack In The Box (JACK) are on the rise following an upgrade by JP Morgan Chase, which raised its rating on the stock to Overweight from Neutral and raised its target price to $24 from $23. The stock is up by 6.7 percent, bouncing off of a five and a half month closing low set on Wednesday.

Prudential Financial (PRU) is also moving higher after being upgraded to Outperform from Market Perform at FBR Capital Markets, with the broker citing the firm's strong credit status compared to its competitors. The broker also raised its target price on the stock to $60 from $46. The stock is climbing by 4 percent.

On the other hand, Blue Coat Systems (BCSI) is retreating after being downgrade to Hold from Buy by Needham & Co. Shares of the security software firm are down by 6.3 percent, falling to a one month intraday low.

Other Markets

In overseas trading, stock markets across the Asia-Pacific region rebounded from yesterday's losses on Thursday. Japan's benchmark Nikkei 225 Index advanced by 1.8 percent, while Hong Kong's Hang Seng Index jumped 1.9 percent.

The major European markets are also moving higher, with the German DAX Index and the French CAC 40 Index rising by 1.3 percent and 1.5 percent, respectively, while the U.K.'s FTSE 100 Index is up by 1.2 percent.

In the bond markets, treasuries are seeing modest weakness amid the gains on Wall Street. Subsequently, the yield on the benchmark ten-year note is trading at 3.481 percent, posting at gains of 1.8 basis points.

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