Stock Market Today: S&P 500 Hits Fresh Highs as Jobs Optimism Buoys Sentiment

NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- After diving in and out of positive territory earlier, major U.S. stock indices were firmly in the green by the afternoon session, buoyed by optimism ahead of Friday's jobs report and comforting hints of stimulus from European Central Bank President Mario Draghi.  

The Dow Jones Industrial Average added 0.29% and the S&P 500 gained 0.21%, both trimming gains after scoring record intraday highs earlier in the session. The Nasdaq climbed 0.13%. 

There is cautious optimism on Wall Street regarding the improving domestic job market, with economists expecting an increase of 240,000 jobs when the October jobs report is released before market open Friday. 

"We could see a number possibly north of 250,000 based on some of the early reads that have come out from other series so I think we could see an upside surprise," said Alan Gayle, senior investment strategist at RidgeWorth Investments, in a phone call.

Earlier Thursday, a drop in the number of claims for unemployment benefits in the U.S. backed up data supporting a tightening labor market. Jobless claims declined 10,000 to 278,000, the lowest level in roughly 14 years, for the week ended Nov. 1. Analysts had expected claims of 283,000. 

European equities surged, with Germany's DAX and France's CAC 40 up more than 0.4%, after Draghi restated plans to introduce stimulus measures if needed. The ECB on Thursday kept its benchmark lending rate at 0.05%, a record low.

A eurozone recession has been of major concern to global markets after the European Commission slashed its outlook for the region's growth on continued deflation worries and unemployment woes. Its largest economy, Germany, reported anemic industrial orders growth of 0.8% in September, far lower than an estimated 2.3% gain.

Genworth Financial (GNW)  was the worst performer on the S&P 500 after taking an earnings charge of $345 million in its third quarter following a long-term care insurance claim review. Shares were down 37.4%.

Qualcomm (QCOM)  sank 11.3% after missing analysts' estimates in its fourth quarter and guiding for current-quarter earnings as high as $1.30 a share, short of consensus by 13 cents.

Web.Com (WWWW)  was dragging on the Nasdaq after guiding to below-consensus earnings as high as 57 cents a share for its year-ending quarter. Analysts expected earnings, on average, of 63 cents a share. The stock tanked 25.8%.

Tesla (TSLA)  shares were surging, up more than 5% after projecting several years of 50% growth. In its most recent quarter, revenue jumped nearly 100% and adjusted profit beat estimates by 3 cents a share.

Sierra Wireless (SWIR) shares were spiking nearly 30% after the wireless tech company issued fourth-quarter profit guidance of at least 25 cents a share. Analysts expected 17 cents a share.

West Texas Intermediate crude oil prices tumbled 1.5% to $77.54 a barrel after the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries warned of a "small decline in real values" of oil commodities to $95 a barrel by 2020. WTI prices have been in freefall, entering into a bear market after tumbling nearly 30% since June. On Tuesday, the commodity fell 2%, closing at a three-year low of $77.19 a barrel after Saudi Arabia cut the price of U.S. oil.

Walt Disney (DIS) , King Digital (KING)  and Zynga  (ZNGA)  are among the companies reporting earnings after the markets close on Thursday.

--Written by Keris Alison Lahiff in New York.

More from Markets

AMD Rises Above the Competition; Loan Losses Mount for Big Banks -- ICYMI

AMD Rises Above the Competition; Loan Losses Mount for Big Banks -- ICYMI

McKesson Internal Review Clears Senior Management of Wrongdoing on Opioids

McKesson Internal Review Clears Senior Management of Wrongdoing on Opioids

Starbucks Surprises Wall Street With U.S. Sales Up a Paltry 2%

Starbucks Surprises Wall Street With U.S. Sales Up a Paltry 2%

Dow Jumps 238 Points as S&P 500, Nasdaq Also Climb

Dow Jumps 238 Points as S&P 500, Nasdaq Also Climb

Why Nashville, Denver, LA Should Reconsider Bids for Amazon HQ2

Why Nashville, Denver, LA Should Reconsider Bids for Amazon HQ2