US Stocks Modestly Higher Thursday

(AP) -- Stocks were up modestly on Thursday, adding to the gains that helped the stock market close out its best first half of a year since the dotcom bubble.

Investors continued to be encouraged by economic data as they await Friday's closely watched jobs report.

The S&P 500 index was up 0.3% as of 10:40 a.m. Eastern. The Dow Jones Industrial Average was up 0.2% and the Nasdaq Composite was up less than 0.1%. The S&P ended the first half of 2021 up 14.5%, it's best six month period since 1998, as investors have embraced the post-pandemic economic recovery and set aside worries about inflation.

Stocks got a boost from an encouraging report on the job market. The number of workers filing for unemployment benefits fell to 364,000 last week, the lowest level since the pandemic walloped the economy.

On Friday investors will get the June jobs report. Economists surveyed by FactSet expect the U.S. economy created 675,000 jobs last month, and the unemployment rate fell to 5.7%.

The yield on the 10-year Treasury note was up to 1.46% from 1.45% the day before.

Oil prices jumped ahead of a meeting of OPEC, the group of oil-producing countries. OPEC members are considering whether to increase production as the global economy recovers from the pandemic. Oil prices along with other raw materials have risen steadily this year as demand has increased. Oil was up 2.6% Thursday morning and is up 55% so far this year.

Higher oil prices translated into higher energy company stocks. Occidental Petroleum was up nearly 5%, ConocoPhillips was up 3.5% and Marathon Oil was up 2.3%. The energy sector of the S&P 500 was the biggest winner in the first half with a gain of over 40%.