U.S. stocks rose on Thursday after data showed a steep drop in the number of people filing new claims for jobless benefits and Alcoa Inc kicked off earnings season with better-than-expected numbers.

* The Dow Jones industrial average <.DJI> rose 40.73 points, or 0.50 percent, to 8,219.14. The Standard & Poor's 500 Index <.SPX> added 4.99 points, or 0.57 percent, to 884.55. The Nasdaq Composite Index <.IXIC> gained 9.63 points, or 0.55 percent, to 1,756.80.

(Reporting by Leah Schnurr; editing by Jeffrey Benkoe)