US stocks gain ahead of jobs report

NEW YORK (AFP) - Wall Street stocks finished modestly higher on Thursday despite another drop in oil prices ahead of Friday's eagerly anticipated US jobs report for January.

At the closing bell, the Dow Jones Industrial Average stood at 16.415.62, up 78.96 points (0.48 per cent) The broad-based S&P 500 added 2.86 (0.15 per cent) at 1,915.39, while the tech-rich Nasdaq Composite Index climbed 5.32 (0.12 per cent) to 4,509.56.

US stocks advanced despite veering into negative territory a couple of times during the session, as oil prices closed lower and US data showed a drop in fourth-quarter productivity and a rise in weekly jobless claims.

Industrial stocks were especially strong, with Caterpillar rising 4.3 per cent and Alcoa 10.1 per cent.

"Things are mixed but the stock market is actually performing surprisingly well, given the downbeat economic news we received this morning," said Jack Ablin, chief investment officer at BMO Private Bank.

"The market seems pretty resilient."

Friday's employment report is expected to show the US economy added 188,000 jobs, down from a December surge of 292,000.