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."