U.S. stocks were modestly higher on Thursday on better-than-expected same-store sales for November, even as the Department of Labor reported that weekly jobless claims climbed last week.

The S&P 500 Index advanced 4.29 points, or 0.36 percent, to trade at 1,210.36 at 9:50 a.m. EDT. The Dow Jones Industrial Average advanced 29.47 points, or 0.26 percent, to trade at 11,285.25. The Nasdaq Composite Index gained 0.35 percent.

The Department of Labor reported that initial jobless claims increased by 26,000 to 436,000 for the week ended Nov 27 from the previous week's revised figure of 410,000, while economists expected 429,000. The 4-week moving average of initial claims declined 5,750 to 431,000 from the previous week's revised average of 436,750.

The weekly jobless claims data comes a day ahead of the government's monthly nonfarm payrolls report, which is the most closely-watch economic data pertaining to the jobs market and is a key gauge for the direction and pace of the economic recovery.

Most of the U.S. retailers reported better than expected same-store sales results in November. Teen retailer Abercrombie & Fitch shares climbed 8.68 percent as the company same-store sales jumped 22 percent in November. JCPenney shares advanced 2.52 percent after reporting better than expected November sales.

U.S. listed shares of Russia's dairy and fruit Juice Company Wimm-Bill-Dann Foods surged 29.59 percent after PepsiCo agreed to acquire a 66 percent stake for $3.8 billion, making PepsiCo the largest food-and-beverage business in Russia.

Finisar Corp. surged 10.37 percent as the company's second quarter adjusted profit was $38.3 million or 44 cents a share, up from $7.5 million or 11 cents a share last year.

The euro advanced 0.03 percent to 1.3142 against the dollar and the yen declined 0.01 percent against the greenback.

Crude oil futures declined 0.24 percent to $86.54/barrel and gold futures advanced 0.14 percent.

European Central Bank President Jean-Claude Trichet said on Thursday that the banks program of distressed sovereign bond purchases is ongoing, but declined to comment on market speculation the central bank would boost bond purchases.

European stock markets are currently trading higher with FTSE 100 up by 41.80 points, DAX30 up by 6.62 points and CAC 40 up by 4.10 points.