First-time applications for unemployment benefits dropped last week to the lowest since September. The number of applications, a proxy for how many workers are being laid off, is near where it was before the Great Recession.
The Standard & Poor's 500 was up 10 points, or 0.6 per cent, at 1,791 as of noon Thursday. The Dow Jones industrial average rose 85 points, or 0.5 per cent, to 15,986. The Nasdaq composite rose 33 points, or 0.9 per cent, to 3,954.
General Motors rose 3 per cent after the government said it will sell the rest of its stake in the company by the end of the year. Target fell 4 per cent after reporting a plunge in net income.