U.S. stocks rose Thursday as better-than-expected retail sale results helped offset mixed economic data.
Retailers reported sharp declines in January sales, but the result was not as bad as the market had expected. Wal-Mart, along with other discount sellers, beat Wall Street's forecast. Macy's raised its fourth-quarter and full-year forecasts after reporting its sales.
A series of mixed economic data weighed on the market on Thursday. The U.S. Labor Department reported that the number of initial unemployment benefit applications soared last week to a seasonally adjusted 626,000, from the previous week's upwardly revised figure of 591,000. It is the highest level since October 1982 and is far more than analysts' expectations of 583,000.
Meanwhile, the number of people that remained on the unemployment compensation rolls rose slightly to nearly 4.8 million, also the highest since records began in 1967, according to the report.
The U.S. Commerce Department reported that factory orders fell for the fifth straight month in December. But another government report said productivity rose by 3.2 percent in the fourth quarter, which is more than double the analysts' expectation.
Investors also focused on the progress of the stimulus plan proposed by the U.S. government. The Senate is reportedly getting close to passing the 900-billion-U.S.-dollar bill.
The Dow industrials rose 106.41, or 1.34 percent, to 8,063.07 after falling as much as 111 points. The Standard & Poor's 500 index rose 13.62, or 1.64 percent, to 845.85, and the Nasdaq composite index rose 31.19, or 2.06 percent, to 1,546.24.