Earnings, Aid Hope Send US Stocks Higher

(AP) -- Stocks moved higher in early trading on Thursday, helped by strong company earnings as well as optimism that Washington can reach a deal for another round of fiscal stimulus for the millions of Americans who need it.

The S&P 500 index was up 0.4% as of 9:55 a.m. Eastern. The Dow Jones industrial average rose 0.5% and the technology heavy Nasdaq Composite was up 0.4%.

All three indexes are on pace for strong weekly gains above 3%. Stocks have been mostly rallying this week, an encouraging start to February after a late fade in January as volatility spiked amid worries about the timing and scope of another round of stimulus spending by the Biden administration, unease over the effectiveness of the government's coronavirus vaccine distribution.

Wall Street continues to be focused on individual company earnings. Shares of eBay and PayPal were up more than 8%, after both company reported results that blew away Wall Street's expectations.

Shares of the beaten-down companies that have been of intense interest by retail investors were down in early trading. GameStop shares were down 8%, continuing is sharp pace downward after its crazy rise the previous two weeks. The stock is on pace for a 73% decline this week alone. AMC Entertainment was down 7%.

In Washington, President Joe Biden urged Democrats lawmakers to "act fast" on his economic stimulus plan but also said he's open to changes. Democrats and Republicans remain far apart on support for President Joe Biden's $1.9 trillion stimulus package, but investors are betting that the administration will opt for a reconciliation process to get the legislation through Congress.

In economic data, the number of Americans who filed for unemployment benefits fell below 800,000 last week, which was better than economist expectations but still remains high due to the pandemic.