The Associated Press
NEW YORK — Encouraging news about the job market and higher profits from CBS, Facebook and other companies gave stocks a lift Thursday.
Signs that hiring is picking up has been an important factor supporting this year's rally in stocks that has pushed the Dow Jones industrial average and the Standard & Poor's 500 index to record highs. The rally has started to falter in recent weeks on signs that the global economy is slowing.
The Dow rose 121 points to 14,822 as of noon Eastern, an increase of 0.8 percent. It lost 138 points the day before, its worst drop in two weeks. The S&P 500 index climbed 14 points, or 0.9 percent, to 1,597.
The Labor Department reported that applications for unemployment benefits fell last week to the lowest since January 2008. That suggests layoffs are easing. It's a positive sign ahead of the government's closely watched monthly employment report due out on Friday. Stocks fell April 5 after the government reported that hiring in March was the weakest in nine months.
"Everyone is looking to the April jobs numbers," said Tyler Vernon, chief investment officer at Biltmore Capital. "People are more confident that it was an anomaly last month and are looking for some bigger numbers."
Economists forecast that the economy added 160,000 jobs last month. That's much better than the 88,000 added in March, but below last year's pace of nearly 185,000 per month.
Investors were also watching earnings on Thursday.
General Motors rose $1.31, or 4.3 percent, to $31.50 after reporting earnings that exceeded analysts' expectations as its losses in Europe narrowed. The automaker's earnings of 67 cents a share beat the 54 cents predicted by Wall Street analysts that follow the company. Broadcaster CBS reported a 22 percent jump in first-quarter earnings big events like the Super Bowl pushed advertising revenue higher. Its stock rose $1.34, or 3 percent, to $47.75.
Facebook rose 83 cents, or 3 percent, to $28.20 after it said late Wednesday that revenues rose about 38 percent, surpassing Wall Street expectations. The company earned nearly a third of its advertising revenue from mobile devices, a greater share than most than analysts were expecting.
The social networking site bucked the trend for companies reporting in the first quarter. Most corporations are exceeding analysts' expectations on earnings, but falling short on revenues.
About 70 percent of companies in the S&P 500 index have reported earnings for the first quarter. Of those corporations, seven of 10 have beaten analyst's expectations for earnings, but about six of 10 have fallen short for expectations on revenues.
"If we continue to see several more quarters like this, investors would start to get nervous," said Andrew Milligan, head of global strategy at Standard Life investment. He says that growth needs to pick up in the major export markets, like China and Europe, for U.S. companies to maintain their earnings growth.
Earnings at companies in the S&P 500 are at record levels. They are forecast to rise by 4.4 percent in the first quarter, according to S&P Capital IQ data.
Stocks are rebounding after a slump Wednesday prompted by reports that manufacturing growth and hiring were slowing.
In other trading, the Nasdaq composite index rose 37 points, or 0.5 percent, to 3,315 points.
In government bond trading, the yield on the 10-year note rose to 1.64 percent after falling to a low for the year of 1.63 percent Wednesday.
The price of crude oil rose $1.74 to $92.78 a barrel, up 1.9 percent. The price of gold rose $23.90, or 1.7 percent, to $1.470.30 an ounce. The U.S. dollar gained against the euro after the European Central bank cuts its benchmark interest rate a quarter of a percentage point to 0.5 percent. The euro fell a penny against the dollar to $1.3057.