NEW YORK -- An encouraging report on the labor market and better sales from Costco and other retail stores helped push the stock market higher Thursday.
The government said that 367,000 Americans sought unemployment benefits for the first time last week. That's an increase from the previous week but fewer than economists had forecast.
The Dow Jones industrial average gained 80.75 points to close at 13,575.36. Aluminum giant Alcoa led the 30 stocks in the Dow with a 3.3 percent surge, rising 29 cents to $9.07.
"It's not just the jobless claims numbers on their own," said Brian Gendreau, market strategist at Cetera Financial Group. "They're coming on the back of ... manufacturing and service-sector reports that were better than people expected this week."
The Standard & Poor's 500 index climbed 10.41 points to 1,461.40. The Nasdaq composite rose 14.23 points to 3,149.46.
The job-market report helped drive the yield on the benchmark 10-year Treasury note up to 1.67 percent from 1.62 percent late Wednesday. Traders tend to sell Treasurys following better economic news.
The Commerce Department said that orders to U.S. factories came in better than forecasts, even though the 5.2 percent drop in orders was the biggest in more than three years.
Costco and other retail chain stores reported September sales that came in ahead of Wall Street's estimates. Costco gained $1.86 to $101.48. Target rose 56 cents to $63.65.
The stock market barely moved following the release of the Federal Reserve's minutes from its meeting last month, when the Fed hatched a new open-ended program to spend $40 billion a month on mortgage bonds. The minutes revealed that all but one member of the Fed's interest-rate committee voted in favor of the bond-buying effort.
The key event this week 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.
The major stock market indexes have climbed steadily higher to start October. The Dow rose 78 points Monday after the Institute for Supply Management said its gauge of manufacturing rose in September for the first time in four months. For the month, the Dow is up an even 1 percent and the S&P 500 is up 1.4 percent.
Among other stocks making big moves:
_ Google rose $5.55 to $768.05. The Internet giant and U.S. publishers announced they had settled a seven-year dispute over Google's book-scanning project. A lawsuit filed by authors remains, though.
_ Sprint Nextel sank 2 percent, or 11 cents, to $5.09. Reports said the wireless carrier may launch a competing bid for MetroPCS Communications. That would pit Sprint against Deutsche Telekom, which plans to merge MetroPCS with its T-Mobile USA unit.
_ Avery Dennison's stock dropped following news that 3M Co. dissolved an agreement to buy Avery Dennison's office and consumer products division. The Department of Justice had threatened to block the deal, saying that the sale to 3M, the maker of Post-It notes, would curtail competition in the market for sticky labels. Avery Dennison lost $1.38 to $30.07.