U.S. stocks were slightly higher on Thursday, as investors assessed a larger-than-expected jump in jobless claims and mixed earnings from Wal-Mart Stores Inc. and Kohl's Corp.

The S&P 500 (SPX) was up 3 points, or 0.2%, at 1,950.50. The Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJI) was up 13 points, or 0.1%, at 16,665.74. The Nasdaq Composite (RIXF) ticked up 2 points to 4,436.62.

Dow industrials component Wal-Mart (WMT)lowered its full-year earnings forecast, while second-quarter operating profit met analyst expectations and sales topped those views.

Department-store operator Kohl's (KSS) shares rallied after the company posted slightly improved second-quarter earnings from a year ago, despite a decline in sales. Same-stores sales turned positive in July.

A report from the Labor Department showed initial jobless claims rose more than expected, but remained close to pre-recession levels, boding well for the labor market.

"Investors gave a jobless claims a pass, as the trend seems to be intact," said Lawrence Creatura, portfolio manager at Federated Investors. He said the firm own shares in American Eagle Outfitters Inc.(AEO)

Meanwhile, brick-and-mortar stores are slowly adjusting to a shift in consumer behavior, and "we see a lot of stocks that are now attractive because of that shift," he said.

After Thursday's closing bell, embattled retailer J.C. Penney (JCP) is projected to report a narrower second-quarter loss of 91 cents a share.

Nordstrom (JWN) also will release results after the close, and analysts expect the upscale department store chain to post earnings of 94 cents for its second quarter.