U.S. stocks advanced in early trade on Thursday as robust earnings from Apple, Morgan Stanley and General Electric offset higher-than-forecast jobless claims data.

The S&P 500 Index advanced 4.36 points, or 0.33 percent, to trade at 1,334.72 at 9:50 a.m. EDT. The Dow Jones Industrial Average gained 13.85 points, or 0.11 percent, to trade at 12,467.39. The Nasdaq Composite Index gained 0.30 percent.

Apple Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL) shares gained 2.83 percent to $352.09 in early trade as its second quarter earnings and revenue exceeded Street view. Profit was $6.0 billion or $6.40 a share, up from $3.1 billion or $3.33 a share last year. Sales rose to $24.7 billion from $13.5 billion. Analysts had expected profit of $5.36 a share on revenue of $23.34 billion.

Morgan Stanley (NYSE:MS) shares advanced 2.96 percent to $26.81 after reporting first quarter net income of $0.46 per share on an adjusted basis against analysts’ estimation of $0.40 per share.

Shares of General Electric Co. (NYSE:GE) declined 2.21 percent to $19.91 despite reporting an 80 percent rise in its first quarter profit. Profit was $3.36 billion or $0.31 a share, up from $1.87 billion or $0.17 a share last year. The company also raised its quarterly dividend by $0.01.

On the economic front, the Department of Labor reported that initial jobless claims declined by 13,000 to 403,000 for the week ended Apr.16 from the previous week's revised figure of 416,000, while economists expected 390,000. The 4-week moving average of initial claims increased 2,250 to 399,000 from the previous week's revised average of 396,750.

US stocks rallied on Wednesday, with the Dow Jones Industrial Average closing near three-year highs, as upbeat earnings from major technology companies’ boosted sentiment for corporate-profit trends.

The euro advanced 0.31 percent to 1.4568 against the dollar and the yen declined 0.90 percent against the greenback.

Crude oil futures declined 0.22 percent to $111.21/barrel and gold futures advanced 0.27 percent.

European stock markets are currently trading higher with FTSE 100 up by 1.58 points, DAX30 up by 52.36 points and CAC 40 up by 20.54 points.