S&P 500 Inches Higher Early

NEW YORK (AP) -- U.S. stocks perked higher in Thursday morning trading, and the Standard & Poor's 500 index was on track for its first gain in five days.

Crude oil inched higher following a plunge Wednesday, and Asian stocks recovered some of their sharp losses from the day before.

KEEPING SCORE: The Standard & Poor's 500 index was up 2 points, or 0.1 percent, at 2,631, as of 10:05 a.m. Eastern time. If the S&P 500 remains higher through the day, it would snap the longest losing streak for the index since March. Losses over that span have been modest, though, with the index never dropping more than 0.4 percent in a day over that time.

The Dow Jones industrials average rose 48, or 0.2 percent, to 24,188, and the Nasdaq composite gained 15, or 0.2 percent, to 6,791. Three stocks rose on the New York Stock Exchange for every two that fell.

UP, AND MOSTLY DOWN, WEEK: Markets have drifted mostly lower this week, as Congress moves finalizes its proposal to overhaul the tax system and send it to President Donald Trump. The House and Senate's plans would create slightly different winners and losers among corporate taxpayers, and investors have been trying to shift to areas of the market that they see ultimately benefiting the most. That's caused investors to pull out of technology stocks at times and into financial companies and retailers, though the flows have been choppy.

BIT MORE ENERGETIC: Energy stocks recovered some of their losses from a day earlier as the price of oil ticked higher.

Benchmark U.S. crude added 39 cents to $56.35 per barrel and recovered about a quarter of its $1.66 loss from Thursday. Brent crude, the international standard, added 55 cents to $61.77 per barrel.

That helped energy stocks in the S&P 500 rise 0.4 percent, second-most among the 11 sectors that make up the index.

EARNINGS BOOST: Dollar General jumped to one of the biggest gains in the S&P 500 after reporting stronger revenue and earnings for its latest quarter than analysts expected. It climbed $2.59, or 2.9 percent, to $93.44.

Strong earnings growth has been one of the main reasons for the nearly 18 percent rise in the S&P 500 this year, along with the improving global economy.

ECONOMY: More evidence that the job market is strengthening arrived after a government report showed that fewer workers filed for unemployment benefits last week. The numbers are considered a proxy for layoffs, and they offer an encouraging sign that the U.S. labor market continues to improve.

On Friday, the government will release its closely watched monthly jobs report. If it shows as much strength as economists expect, the Federal Reserve will likely be on track to raise interest rates at its meeting next week. It would be the third rate increase of the year.

YIELDS: Treasury fell as prices for government bonds rose. The yield on the 10-year Treasury note fell to 2.32 percent from 2.34 percent late Wednesday. The two-year yield dipped to 1.79 percent from 1.81 percent, and the 30-year yield sank to 2.70 percent from 2.73 percent.

CURRENCIES: The dollar edged up to 112.65 Japanese yen from 112.28 yen late Wednesday. The euro ticked up to $1.1795 from $1.1793, and the British pound rose to $1.3413 from $1.3375.

COMMODITIES: Gold fell $9.30 to $1,256.80 per ounce, silver lost 11 cents to $15.85 per ounce and copper rose 2 cents to $2.98 per pound.

Natural gas fell 11 cents, or 3.7 percent, to $2.82 per 1,000 cubic feet.

MARKETS ABROAD: Japan's Nikkei 225 index rose 1.4 percent following its worst day since March, a 2 percent loss. The Hang Seng in Hong Kong rose 0.3 percent, and South Korea's Kospi lost 0.5 percent.

Germany's DAX rose 0.2 percent, the FTSE 100 in London dipped 0.1 percent and France's CAC 40 was close to flat.