NEW YORK - Stocks closed higher for a second day Thursday after traders made room for optimism in mixed economic reports.
Stocks climbed on reports that business in the nation's services economy increased in May and that the number of people seeking first-time jobless claims slipped for a second week. The gains faded at times, but stocks recovered by the close as traders looked to the Labor Department's May jobs report Friday.
Economists predict that employers added 513,000 jobs in May. It would be the biggest jump in 26 years, but as many as 300,000 of the workers hired in May were expected to be temporary positions to help conduct the U.S. census. Still, even temporary hiring could bring a bump in consumer spending.
The economic news gave a boost to much of the market, but energy stocks posted some of the biggest gains after the price of oil rose. Shares of Range Resources Corp. rose more than 6 percent, while Noble Energy Corp. shares added more than 5 percent.
The Dow Jones industrial average rose 5.74, or 0.06 percent, to 10,255.28.
The Standard & Poor's 500 index rose 4.45, or 0.41 percent, to 1,102.83, while the technology-focused Nasdaq composite index rose 21.96, or 0.96 percent, to 2,303.03.
Crude oil rose $1.75 to close at $74.61 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange. Gold fell.
In economic news, the Labor Department said first-time claims for unemployment benefits fell 10,000, to 453,000, last week. The drop coincided with a report from payroll company ADP Employer Services that said private employers added 55,000 jobs in May.
Both reports fell just short of economists' forecasts, but they still showed some improvement in the job market.
The Institute for Supply Management's report on the services sector provided hope that more jobs would be added in the coming months. The ISM's index remained steady at 55.4 last month. Any reading above 50 indicates growth.
The Russell 2000 index of smaller companies rose 6.85, or 1.04 percent, to 667.37.