Dow Jones average creeps up after jobs report

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 reported 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 65 points to 13,559 shortly after 11:30 a.m. Bank of America led the 30 stocks in the Dow with a 3 surge, rising 26 cents to $9.37.

"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 rose six points to 1,457 and the Nasdaq composite edged down less than one point to 3,135.

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.

Stocks took another turn higher in mid-morning trading after 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.

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 1.1 percent.

Among other stocks making big moves:

_ Google edged up 61 cents to $763.11. Google 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.

_ Marriott International, 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 10 cents to $39.10.

_ 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 40 cents, to $14.51.