Wall Street open sharply higher on strong data, earnings report

NEW YORK (REUTERS) - Wall Street rose sharply on Thursday (Aug 11) morning as strong labour market data and upbeat corporate results buoyed investor sentiment about US economic growth.

The number of Americans applying for unemployment benefits slipped by 3,000 last week to 266,000 from the week earlier, continuing a trend of being below the 300,000 mark for the 75th consecutive week.

The data follows a set of robust labour market reports including last week's monthly payrolls numbers.

Kohl's kicked off the two-day earnings run of department store chains. The company's shares rose 13.4 per cent after its quarterly profit beat estimates.

Macy's shares soared 16 per cent after the department store operator reported a smaller-than-expected drop in quarterly comparable store sales and said it would close 100 stores.

The rally in Macy's helped the S&P 500's consumer discretionary index jump 0.8 per cent, making it the biggest gainer among the benchmark's 10 major indexes.

Nordstrom rose 8.9 per cent in the run-up to the results after market closes, while JC Penney, which reports on Friday, was up 5 per cent.

Macy's was the top percentage gainer on the S&P 500, followed by Kohl's and Nordstrom.

Alibaba rose 5.4 per cent after the Chinese e-commerce giant posted a 59 per cent jump in quarterly revenue. Yahoo, which owns a stake in Alibaba, rose 3.4 per cent.

Better-than-expected second-quarter earnings and a set of strong economic data have pushed the S&P 500 to a series of record intraday highs since July.

At 9.37 am ET (9.37 pm Singapore time), the Dow Jones Industrial Average was up 78.11 points, or 0.42 per cent, at 18,573.77. The S&P 500 was up 8.07 points, or 0.37 per cent, at 2,183.56. The index is just 4 points shy of its record high.

The Nasdaq Composite was up 26.41 points, or 0.51 per cent, at 5,230.99.

"It's certainly hard to fight the recent trend, which has been a better appetite for risk and I don't see anything to upset things," said Mark Heppenstall, CIO of Penn Mutual Asset Management. "It seems stocks are a better long-term investment at this point."

Oil prices reversed course, albeit in choppy trading, after the International Energy Agency forecast crude markets would rebalance in the next few months.