Energy Sector Leads Stocks Higher

Energy Sector Leads Stocks Higher

NEW YORK (AP) -- U.S. stocks were slightly higher on Thursday, helped by a sharp drive up in the price of oil, which rose more than 3 percent. Investors are looking ahead to Friday's closely watched jobs report.

KEEPING SCORE: The Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 60 points, or 0.3 percent, to 17,712 as of 11:40 a.m. Eastern. The Standard & Poor's 500 index rose six points, or 0.3 percent, to 2,057 and the Nasdaq composite rose 15 points, or 0.3 percent, to 4,741.

EARNINGS BEATS: On another heavy day of earnings reports, several stocks were moving higher after reporting better results than analysts were expecting. Media company Discovery Communications, whose cable channels include Discovery Channel and Animal Planet, rose $1.39, or 5 percent, to $27.98. Insurer Allstate added $2.52, or 4 percent, to $67.82.

EARNINGS MISSES: A number of companies fell after releasing earnings and forecasts that didn't impress investors. Electric car maker Tesla sank $8, or 3.6 percent, to $214.58 after reporting a much wider loss than Wall Street analysts were expecting. The company had parts delays for its new Model X SUV. Cereal maker Kellogg sank $1.77, or 2.4 percent, to $75.21 after reporting declines in both sales and earnings in the first quarter. SeaWorld sank $1.34, or 7 percent, to $18.13 after reporting a wider first-quarter loss as expenses climbed.

U.S. ECONOMY: As the week comes to a close, the market's focus is turning to the nonfarm payrolls report for April due out Friday. Investors will be watching closely to see if it could have any impact on the Federal Reserve's plans for raising interest rates at its next policy meeting in June. Economists expect the report to show jobs grew by 200,000 last month while the unemployment rate stayed at 5 percent.

A private sector jobs report released by ADP on Wednesday showed that private employers created only 156,000 jobs last month, which was significantly below economists' estimates.

ENERGY: Crude oil prices jumped, driven by what analysts said were concerns that production could be impacted by a massive fire that swept through the Canadian oil sands hub of Fort McMurray, Alberta.

Benchmark U.S. crude oil rose $1.35, or 3.1 percent, to $45.12 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange. Brent crude, used to price international oils, was up $1.17, or 2.6 percent, at $45.78 a barrel in London.

BONDS and CURRENCIES: Bond prices didn't move much. The yield on the 10-year Treasury note held steady at 1.78 percent. The euro fell to $1.1403 from $1.1498 and the dollar rose to 107.35 yen from 106.93 yen.