Stocks on Wall Street opened Thursday with modest gains, as investors took in a slight drop in weekly unemployment claims and prepared for more earnings reports.

The

Dow Jones Industrial Average

rose 36 points to 8860, and the

S&P 500

ticked up 4.3 points to 908. The

Nasdaq

added 5 points to 1584.

Stocks ended Wednesday with losses as investor enthusiasm over the

Federal Reserve's

historic rate cut Tuesday got overshadowed by a larger-than-expected loss at

Morgan Stanley

(MS) - Get Report

.

Ahead of trading Thursday, the Labor Department reported that new applications for

jobless benefits

fell to a seasonally adjusted 554,000 from an upwardly revised figure of 575,000 the week before. The number came in slightly below economists' expectations of 558,000.

FedEx

(FDX) - Get Report

reported second-quarter earnings that beat estimates by a penny a share and unveiled a plan to save costs that calls for a cut in its senior executives' pay and a one-year freeze on 401(k) contributions.

Nike

(NKE) - Get Report

posted strong second-quarter results late Wednesday. The athletic apparel company reported net income of $391 million, or 80 cents a share, up 9%, from the $359.4 million, or 71 cents a share, it posted a year ago.

General Motors

(GM) - Get Report

denied as untrue a report in

The Wall Street Journal

that said the company and

Chrysler

have reopened merger talks. GM, Chrysler and

Ford

(F) - Get Report

continue to await word on a federal bailout for the U.S. auto industry.

Meanwhile, President-elect

Barack Obama

is working on a massive economic stimulus package that could total $850 billion over two years to promote jobs, provide middle-class tax relief and expand aid for the poor.

Moving to commodities, crude oil was falling $1.66 to $38.40 a barrel. Gold was down $7.80 to $860.70 an ounce.

Longer-dated U.S. Treasury securities were rising in price. The 10-year was rising 1 3.5/32 to yield 2.1% and the 30-year was rising 1 12/32, yielding 2.6%. The dollar was weaker against the euro, pound, and yen.

Overseas, European exchanges such as the FTSE in London and the DAX in Frankfurt were mixed -- with the former down 0.01% and the latter up 1%, respectively. In Asia, Japan's Nikkei and Hong Kong's Hang Seng ended with gains.

Copyright 2008 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed. AP contributed to this report.