U.S. stocks rose on Thursday as a surprising quarterly profit from Alcoa Inc got third-quarter earnings off to a strong start and data pointed to a stabilizing labor market.

Alcoa was up 2.4 percent at $14.55 a day after the Dow Jones industrial average component posted its first profit after three consecutive quarterly losses, on cost savings and higher aluminum prices. The S&P materials index <.GSPM> gained 1.9 percent.

The market pulled back a bit in afternoon trading as the latest U.S. bond auction was poorly received, suggesting a waning confidence in U.S. assets, including stocks.

Data showed earlier on Thursday that the number of U.S. workers filing new jobless claims slid to a nine-month low last week, the U.S. Labor Department said.

You had more positive economic news, and Alcoa numbers were better than expected on both revenue and net income. So that lends credibility to the bulls' thesis that the economy is gaining momentum, said Jim Awad, managing director at Zephyr Management in New York.

The Dow <.DJI> was up 77.92 points, or 0.80 percent, at 9,803.50. The Standard & Poor's 500 Index <.SPX> was up 8.88 points, or 0.84 percent, at 1,066.46. The Nasdaq Composite Index <.IXIC> was up 18.05 points, or 0.86 percent, at 2,128.38.

The S&P 500 is now about 58 percent higher than its 12-year closing low in early March.

U.S. retailers posted their first monthly sales increase in more than a year, suggesting that recession-battered consumers might be regaining their ability, and desire, to spend again.

Store chains such as Macy's Inc rose 5.1 percent to $19.53 and Abercrombie & Fitch Co gained 5.3 percent to $34.39. Kohl's Corp rose 2 percent to $59.71. The Standard & Poor's Retail Index <.RLX> added 2 percent.

On the Nasdaq, Microsoft Corp was one of the top performers, up 2.7 percent at $25.77.

(Editing by Padraic Cassidy)