Stocks opened higher Thursday, snapping a two-day losing streak, as investors gave techs another go and Wal-Mart hit its earnings target.
However, a pair of economic reports that missed expectations curbed gains.
This comes after stocks lost more than 2 percentWednesday as banks struggled and the government's reading on retail sales unexpectedly fell for a second straight month.
In Thursday's economic news, initial jobless claims rose by 32,000last week to 637,000, well above the 610,000 expected. The total number of people seeking unemployment benefits soared to another new record at 6.56 million.
Meanwhile, wholesale prices rose 0.3 percent in April, more than the 0.2 percent expected.
Wal-Mart reported first-quarter earnings of 77 cents a share, flat from a a year ago but in-line with expectations. The world's largest retailer was also on the same page with analysts with its projection for the current quarter's earnings.
Still, Wal-Mart shares got off to a wobbly start, dipping in and out of negative territory.
Tech stocks rebounded after taking a pounding recently, helping the Nasdaq best both the Dow and S&P 500.
Chip makers, including Intel , Sandisk , Marvel and Xilinx , were among the biggest gainers in the Nasdaq 100.
American depositary shares of Sony rose after the electronics giant reported a second straight quarterly loss but forecast a smaller-than-expected annual loss for the year ahead.
Shares of Digital Globe, a satellite-imaging company, soared more than 10 percent on their debut on the New York Stock Exchange. It was an encouraging sign, particularly since the stock was priced at $19, above the the expected range of $16 to $18. The IPO was the fifth in the U.S. this year.
Bank stocks were mostly higher, though Bank of America struggled.
Citigroup was up about 3 percent, making it the biggest percentage gainer on the Dow. JPMorgan and Wells Fargo were up about 2 percent.
Cliffs Natural Resources continued to slide after losing 20 percent Wednesday, when the iron-ore and coal miner said it was cutting its dividend by more than half, launching a public offering of 12 million shares and slashing executives' salaries in an effort to cut costs.
Oil and gas was the weakest sector after the International Energy Agency said world oil demand will post the sharpest annual decline since 1981 this year, sending crude prices below $57 a barrel.
Ford shares rose after the automaker said it raised $1.6 billionthrough its latest stock offering. Ford is holding its annual meeting today in Wilmington, Del.
Chrysler told a bankruptcy court it plans to eliminate 25 percent of its dealershipsas part of its restructuring. This comes amid news that General Motors plans to cut 2,600 dealerships and start importing Chinese-built vehicles that were previously only for sale in Asia.
Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner will hold a press conference at 10:45 am with HUD Secretary Shaun Donovan to provide an update on the Administration's housing plan. And at noon, President Obama will hold a town hall meeting in Albuquerque, New Mexico on credit-card debt.
Meanwhile, a group of major banks is suing MBIA, charging that the bond insurer illegally restructured its operation by moving $5 billion of assets and leaving a key unit effectively bankrupt.
And U.S. regulators have recommended filing charges against Angelo Mozilo, the co-founder of Countrywide Financial, for insider trading, the Wall Street Journal reported late Wednesday.
Lehman Brothers , which filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in September 2008, is looking at spinning off its remaining assets, the Journal said in an unsourced article.
Still to Come:
THURSDAY: House hearing on the insurance industry; Geithner press conference on housing; Obama town hall
FRIDAY: CPI; industrial production; consumer sentiment; Earnings from JCPenney, Abercrombie
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