The government reported Thursday that the number of Americans seeking unemployment benefits for the first time rose to 367,000 last week. But that was fewer than economists had forecast.
The Dow Jones industrial average gained 38 points to 13,533 shortly before 10 a.m. Bank of America led the 30 stocks in the Dow with a 1.7 surge, rising 16 cents to $9.27.
The Standard & Poor's 500 index rose five points to 1,456 and the Nasdaq composite edged down up five points to 3,140.
The job-market report helped push the yield on the benchmark 10-year Treasury note up to 1.64 percent from 1.62 percent late Wednesday. Traders tend to sell Treasurys following better economic news.
Retailers including Costco and Limited Brands reported September sales that came in ahead of Wall Street's estimates. Costco gained 91 cents to $100.53.
Investors are looking ahead to minutes from the Federal Reserve's latest meeting, due out Thursday afternoon. The key event this week, however, comes Friday morning when the Labor Department releases its monthly jobs report. Economists forecast that the unemployment rate inched up to 8.2 percent in September from 8.1 percent in August.
In the first few days of October, the major stock market indexes have climbed steadily higher. The Dow is up 1 percent and the S&P 500 is up 1.4 percent.
Among other stocks making big moves:— Marriott International jumped 3 percent. The chain, which operates Ritz-Carlton, Courtyard as well as its namesake hotels, posted results late Wednesday that beat analysts' expectations thanks to higher rates and a pickup in customer traffic. Marriott's stock surged 88 cents to $39.88.— Hewlett-Packard continued its slump a day after CEO Meg Whitman told a gathering of investors and analysts that H-P could struggle for the next two years. The computer company's stock dropped 3 percent, or 53 cents, to $14.38.