Stocks move higher on improved jobless claims

US stocks moved higher in early trade Thursday helped by an improvement in jobless claims numbers, while corporate earnings reports from several major industrial companies were uneven.

About 40 minutes into trade, the Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 40.45 (0.28 percent) to 14,716.75.

The broad-based S&P 500 added 7.21 (0.46 percent) to 1,586.00, while the tech-rich Nasdaq Composite Index increased 20.51 (0.63 percent) to 3,290.16.

New claims for US unemployment benefits fell last week to the lowest level since mid-March. Initial claims came in at 339,000, down from the prior week's revised reading of 362,000.

Dow Chemical jumped 3.3 percent after it reported a 33 percent rise in net income and said it enacted strong pricing increases in most operating segments and geographic areas.

Consumer products company Colgate-Palmolive gained 3.5 percent despite a 22 percent drop in year-over-year earnings, which was due in part to the effects of the Venezuelan currency devaluation. Organic sales grew 6 percent and pricing rose 1.5 percent.

Transportation and package delivery company UPS added 1.2 percent after reporting a 6.9 percent increase and quarterly earnings and disclosing the purchase of a Hungary-based pharmaceutical logistics company for an undisclosed sum.

Industrial conglomerate 3M fell 3.5 percent after it trimmed its profit forecast for 2013. The company's chief executive cited the "stronger U.S. dollar and softer demand in some end markets" as factors in the revision.

Pharmaceutical giant Bristol-Myers Squibb lost 2.8 percent after reporting sharply lower earnings due in part to the expiration of patents on some key medicines.

Energy heavyweight ExxonMobil fell 1.2 percent after first quarter earnings came in slightly above last year's level but revenues were below analyst expectations.

United Airlines dipped 0.3 percent after reporting a $417 million quarterly loss.

Verizon Communications shares gained 2.0 percent following a report that the company is considering a possible $100 billion bid to buy from Vodafone the stake in Verizon Wireless it doesn't already own.

Bond prices fell. The yield on the 10-year Treasury rose to 1.72 percent from 1.70 percent Wednesday afternoon, while the 30-year bond moved to 2.91 percent from 2.89 percent. Bond prices and yields move inversely.