Stocks opened higher on Thursday as better-than-expected company profits and a surprise drop in new jobless claims stoked optimism that the recession is showing signs of easing.

* Dow Chemical Q1 profit beats estimates, shares soar

* Chrysler to file for chapter 11 bankruptcy protection

* Initial jobless claims fall unexpectedly

* The Dow Jones industrial average <.DJI> rose 68.73 points, or 0.84 percent, to 8,254.46. The Standard & Poor's 500 Index <.SPX> gained 8.45 points, or 0.97 percent, to 882.09. The Nasdaq Composite Index <.IXIC> jumped 19.68 points, or 1.15 percent, to 1,731.62.

(Reporting by Rodrigo Campos; editing by Jeffrey Benkoe)