STEPHEN BERNARD

NEW YORK (AP) â¿¿ Stocks rose Thursday, extending their gains from the day before, after reports on housing, manufacturing and jobs all indicated that the economy continues to grow.

The Dow Jones industrial average rose 50 points, having jumped 254 on Wednesday thanks to strong reports on manufacturing in the U.S. and China. Broader indexes also rose.

Trading was somewhat muted ahead of the government's closely watched monthly report on employment due out Friday.

"We're treading water," said Dan Genter, CEO of RNC Genter Capital. Traders are waiting to see if Friday's jobs data "provides more of a rescue or a shark attack."

The monthly report is likely to provide further evidence that the jobs market remains weak. Economists polled by Thomson Reuters predict the unemployment rate inched up to 9.6 percent last month from 9.5 percent in July as private employers hired just 41,000 workers last month.

With little broad conviction about the health of the economy, investors chose to target specific stocks following monthly retail sales reports and the latest acquisition activity.

"It's a trader's market," said Kenneth Polcari, managing director at ICAP Equities.

Burger King Holdings Inc. and data storage provider 3Par Inc. both rose after agreeing to be acquired. Limited Brands Inc., which operates Victoria's Secret and Bath & Body Works, got a lift from strong August sales.

The Dow Jones industrial average rose 50.63, or 0.5 percent, to close at 10,320.10.

Broader indexes also rose. The Standard & Poor's 500 index rose 9.81, or 0.9 percent, to 1,090.10, while the Nasdaq composite index rose 23.17, or 1.1 percent, to 2,200.01.

The Labor Department said first-time claims for unemployment benefits fell slightly last week, but remain well above levels that indicate a healthy economy. Claims dipped for the second straight week. They fell slightly below the level economists had forecast, which was somewhat encouraging ahead of Friday's monthly employment report.

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