By Kristina Peterson
U.S. stocks bounced around in jumpy trading, but clung to modest gains Thursday as a drop in jobless claims took some of the edge off concerns over a slowing U.S. economic recovery.
The Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJI) was recently up 33 points, or 0.3%, to 10,093, as a bigger-than-expected decline in initial unemployment claims dented investors' anxiety about the recent stream of weak economic data.
Jobless claims declined by 31,000 to 473,000 in the week ended Aug. 21, compared with the 10,000 drop predicted by economists. However, new claims for the previous week were revised upward, and the four-week moving average rose to the highest level since November 2009. .
Many investors remain uneasy about recent reports showing a plunge in new- and existing-home sales and weaker-than-expected demand for durable goods.
"We're in a bit of a news lull right now; some of these macro [concerns] will linger on, even if these initial claims have some element of good news," said Jeff Morris, head of U.S. equities at Standard Life Investments.
Thursday's modest climb may be largely due to the market's recent battering, which has brought stock prices to attractive levels, he said.
"Given how far things have come down, you expect some modest bounce," he added.
The Nasdaq Composite (RIXF) gained 0.5% to 2,152, and the S&P 500 Index (SPX) rose 0.5% to 1,060, led by its materials and industrials sectors.
Boeing Co. (BA) led the Dow higher, rising 1.9% after the aircraft maker said it plans to double the number of employees at its parts factory in northern China to keep up with demand, according to state media.
A 0.8% decline in shares of Wal-Mart Stores Inc. (WMT) weighed on the index.
Shares of Hewlett-Packard Co. (HPQ) strengthened after data-storage company 3Par Inc. (PAR) accepted an increased acquisition offer from Dell Inc. (DELL). H-P rose 0.8%, while 3Par slid 1.9% and Dell edged up 0.7%. .
U.S. stocks were on track to follow global markets higher.
Most Asian equity markets advanced Thursday, with Japan's Nikkei Stock Average index rising 0.7%. In Europe, stocks also posted gains, boosted by upbeat earnings news from some of Europe's blue-chip companies. The Stoxx Europe 600 index added 0.8% in afternoon trading.
The dollar and the yen were under pressure due to speculation that Japan and the U.S. might reveal plans for more monetary easing at the central bankers' symposium in Jackson Hole, Wyo., at the end of this week. U.S. investors will focus on Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke's keynote speech Friday.
The U.S. dollar index (DXY), which tracks the performance of the currency against a basket of six others, fell 0.7%.
Among market movers, shares of Guess Inc. (GES) tumbled 10%, even after the company reported a 12% increase in second-quarter profit and rising North American wholesale and Asian revenue. The apparel retailer forecast third-quarter earnings in line with analysts' estimates and affirmed its targets for the year.
Digital-video-recording company TiVo Inc. (TIVO) shed 2.3% after its second-quarter loss widened, as revenue fell and operating expenses increased. The company forecast a wider-than-expected third-quarter loss and gave a slightly cautious revenue view.
Commodity prices moved higher, with oil futures rising to nearly $73 a barrel as the market continued to shrug off record-high U.S. oil stockpiles. Gold futures declined.
Demand for Treasurys rose, with the 10-year note down to push its yield up to 2.54%.