U.S. stocks gained on Thursday, with all three indexes gaining at least 1 percent as May sales at Wal-Mart Stores Inc. and Costco Wholesale Corp. beat analysts' estimates while jobless claims fell, boosting expectations that consumer spending will increase the retailers profits.

As of 1:16 p.m. EDT, the Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 178.63 points, or 1.44% to 12569.03, the Standard & Poor's 500 index gained 20.05 points, or 1.46%, to 1397.48 and the Nasdaq Composite Index picked up 37.88 points, or 1.51%, to 2541.02.

Verizon jumped 6 percent to $39.22, leading the Dow in recent trading after it announced a $28.1 billion deal to acquire Alltell and become the No. 1. U.S. wireless carrier.

Wal-Mart Stores Inc., the world's largest retailer, and Costco Wholesale Corp. reported a better-than-expected rise in May sales s record gasoline and food prices led shoppers to prefer discount chains.

Wal-Mart Stores Inc gave the Dow its biggest boost as it hit a 4-year high, boosting its stock 3.5 percent to $59.68 and earlier climbed as high as $59.90.

Shares of Costco Wholesale Corp gave a boost to the Nasdaq, rising 3.5 percent to $73.25 after the warehouse club, like Wal-Mart, posted more robust sales than expected despite rising gasoline prices.

Continental Airlines rose after saying it will cut 3,000 jobs, or 6.7 percent of its 45,000 employees; retire 67 mainline aircraft; and reduce mainline flights because of soaring fuel costs, making it the second major airline this week to announce cutbacks.

The changes follow similar moves that were made in recent days by United Airlines and American Airlines and as the industry grapples with record fuel costs. United surged nearly 12 percent and American was up nearly 7 percent.