US stocks move higher in early trading after a 2-day slide; CarMax jumps on higher profit

EnergyAssociated Press

U.S. stocks moved higher in early trading Thursday, rebounding after a two-day slide. The government said that applications for unemployment aid fell sharply last week, a sign that the U.S. job market remains strong despite tepid economic growth this year. Oil prices eased after climbing the day before.

KEEPING SCORE: The Dow Jones industrial average rose 100 points, or 0.6 percent, to 17,798 as of 10:09 a.m. Eastern. The Standard & Poor's 500 index added 10 points, or 0.5 percent, to 2,069. The Nasdaq composite gained 14 points, or 0.3 percent, to 4,894.

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BACK TO WORK: The Labor Department said applications for unemployment benefits fell sharply last week to a seasonally adjusted 268,000. The decrease is a sign of a strong job market despite evidence of tepid economic growth in the opening months of 2015.

MIND THE GAP: The Commerce Department said that the nation's trade deficit plummeted 16.9 percent to $35.4 billion in February. The trade gap fell as imports and exports sank, driven by a since-settled trade dispute and a global economic slowdown that has cut into oil prices and caused the dollar to rise in value.

EARNINGS AHEAD: Investors have been weighing mixed economic data this week in advance of the next round of corporate earnings, which begins next week. On Tuesday, they got a dash of encouraging data on consumer confidence, spending and home prices. But Wednesday's slate clouded the economic picture. The government's March payroll employment tally is due out Friday, when markets will be closed for the Good Friday holiday.

SECTOR WATCH: The 10 sectors in the S&P 500 rose, led by telecommunications.

DRIVING PROFITS: CarMax climbed 8.5 percent after the dealership operator said that its profit rose sharply in the latest quarter as purchases of used vehicles increased. The stock climbed the most out of all the stocks in the S&P 500 index, adding $5.84 to $74.20.

MARKETS OVERSEAS: In Europe, Britain's FTSE 100 was up 0.5 percent, while the CAC-40 in France rose 0.1 percent. Germany's DAX was down 0.1 percent. In Asia, Japan's Nikkei 225 rose 1.5 percent and South Korea's Kospi was nearly flat. Hong Kong's Hang Seng advanced 0.8 percent.

ENERGY: Benchmark U.S. crude fell 47 cents to $49.62 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The contract rose $2.49 to close at $50.09 a barrel on Wednesday on signs that U.S. production growth is slowing.

BONDS: U.S. government bond prices fell. The yield on the 10-year Treasury note rose to 1.90 percent from 1.86 percent late Wednesday.