NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- Stocks closed higher, holding on to earlier gains as investors turned their attention to Friday's jobs report.
The S&P 500 was up 0.38%, the Dow Jones Industrial Average added 0.46%, and the Nasdaq climbed 0.53%.
The energy sector capped gains on the S&P 500, though, as crude oil stopped a recent rally short. Crude had topped a five-month high of $62 a barrel earlier in the week after U.S. inventories unexpectedly fell. West Texas Intermediate closed 3.3% lower to $58.67 a barrel.
Weekly initial jobless claims in the U.S. rose at a slower-than-expected pace to 265,000 for the week ended May 1. Economists had expected claims for unemployment benefits to rise to 280,000 from 262,000 the week earlier.
The weekly data augers well for the U.S. jobs report for April which will be released on Friday before the bell. Economists expect 225,000 jobs to have been added over the month, far better than 126,000 added in March.
"The primary reason we expect the rate of job growth to improve is initial jobless claims," said Deutsche Bank chief U.S. economist, Joseph LaVorgna. "While the latter measures layoffs and not hiring per se, we have found claims to be the single-best predictor of monthly employment gains. As a general rule, when companies are not laying off many people, which is apparent from the current claims data, the pace of job growth tends to accelerate."
U.S. Treasury yields were trading close to recent highs. Yields reached their highest point since early March earlier this week as U.S. Treasuries sold off alongside German, Spanish, Italian and U.K. bonds. The U.S. 10-year Treasury had reached 2.274% earlier in the session, after closing at 2.24% on Wednesday.
Yelp (YELP) rocketed 23% higher after The Wall Street Journal reported the company was exploring a sale. The online reviews Web site reportedly has met with investment bankers and potential buyers in recent weeks.
Alibaba (BABA) surged 7.5% after reporting fourth-quarter earnings of 48 cents a share, 6 cents better than expected. Revenue jumped 44.8% to $2.81 billion and beat forecasts. The company also named Chief Operating Officer Daniel Zhang as its new CEO. Yahoo! (YHOO), which owns a $39 billion stake in Alibaba, climbed nearly 6%.
Whole Foods (WFM) plunged 9.4% after missing sales estimates and reporting slightl -disappointing comparable-store sales growth of 3.6% in its second quarter. The supermarket operator also announced plans to launch a lower-cost chain that will stock cheaper products.
Keurig (GMCR) dropped 9.7% after missing forecasts on its top- and bottom-line and cutting guidance. The coffee company has seen soft demand for its newest Keurig 2.0 model.
Zynga (ZNGA) added 8.1% after reporting a loss of 1 cent a share, beating by a penny. Revenue was up 9.1% year over year to $183.3 million and beat forecasts. The online game developer announced plans to cut 18% of its workforce as part of a $100 million annual program to cut costs.
Lumber Liquidators (LL) shares were on watch on reports the company will stop selling its Chinese laminate immediately. The company has been under pressure after a 60 Minutes report in March accused it of selling unsafe wood flooring.
Stocks tumbled on Wednesday after Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen warned of potentially overstretched equity valuations. Yellen said market valuations were "generally quite high," though noted the Fed was not seeing signs of a bubble.