NEW YORK (CNNMoney) -- U.S. stocks were solidly higher Thursday as investors cheered the release of two stronger-than-anticipated reports on the jobs market.
The Dow Jones industrial average gained 96 points, or 0.8%; the S&P 500 was up 13 points, or 1%; and the Nasdaq Composite climbed 38 points, or 1.4%.
Retail stocks were the top performers Thursday after several retailers reported better-than-expected June sales. Urban Outfitters was the best performer on the S&P 500, up more than 6%, followed closely by Target, Kohl's and Limited Brands.
Financial shares were also posting strong gains, with Bank of America, JPMorgan Chase and American Express among the top Dow performers.
Economy: Investors got two strong jobs-related economic reports before the opening bell, which gave an early boost to stocks on Thursday.
"The data confirms that, although the job market remains weak, it's showing some signs of stability and the weakness we saw in the second quarter was more related to the earthquake in Japan than an U.S. economic slowdown," said David Levy, portfolio manager with Kenjol Capital Management.
The U.S. government's weekly report on initial unemployment claims came out before the start of trading and was a bit lower than expected.
The government reported 418,000 people filed for unemployment in the week ended July 2. Economists surveyed by Briefing.com had expected a total of 425,000 jobless claims last week.
Separately, a report from payroll services firm ADP showed that employers in the private sector added 157,000 workers in June, far exceeding expectations.
The ADP report was expected to show that employers in the private sector added 60,000 workers in June. ADP revised its tally for May down to an additional 36,000 workers, after initially reporting a boost of 38,000.
The most watched indicator of jobs growth comes Friday with the government's monthly report for June. After weak jobs growth in May, economists and traders aren't expecting much better results from June's numbers.
Economists surveyed by CNNMoney are expecting the report to show 120,000 jobs added to payrolls. Typically, the economy needs to add about 150,000 just to keep pace with population growth.
U.S. stocks recovered from early losses to close near session highs Wednesday. The rebound came after EU officials pushed back against recent downgrades of Greek and Portuguese debt, raising speculation that the union could move to minimize the impact of the ratings agencies.
Companies: Shareholders of NYSE Euronext approved the sale of the parent company of the New York Stock Exchange to Deutsche Boerse. Shares rose 2%.
News Corp. shares were up 1.5% after the company announced it was shutting down the British tabloid "News of the World." The tabloid was at the center of the British phone hacking scandal.
World markets: European stocks rose Thursday. Britain's FTSE 100 was up 0.9%, the DAX in Germany added 0.5% and France's CAC 40 gained 0.5%.
Asian markets ended mostly lower. The Shanghai Composite fell by 0.6%, the Hang Seng in Hong Kong ended flat and Japan's Nikkei ticked down by 0.1%.
Currencies and commodities: The dollar rose against major international currencies, including the euro, the British pound and the Japanese yen.
Oil for August delivery gained $1.70, or 1.8%, to trade at $98.34 a barrel.
Gold futures for August delivery dropped $2.80 to $1,526.20 an ounce.
Bonds: The price on the benchmark 10-year U.S. Treasury ticked lower, pushing the yield up to 3.11% from 3.09% late Wednesday.
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