New York - US stocks moved solidly higher Thursday after jobless claims declined for the third straight week.

About 30 minutes into trade, the Dow Jones Industrial Average increased 56.68 (0.39 percent) to 14,511.96.

The broad-based S&P 500 rose 6.27 (0.40 percent) to 1,560.79.

The index is now less than five points below its all-time closing record.

The tech-heavy Nasdaq Composite index jumped 12.20 (0.38 percent) to 3,257.32. analyst Patrick O'Hare said the decline in new claims for unemployment benefits, a sign of the pace of layoffs, was an encouraging sign for the economy.

Claims totaled 332,000 in the week ending March 9, a drop of 10,000 from the prior week, according to the Department of Labor.

“Once again, there is a good basis for the stock market to maintain an upward bias and for trading volume to increase,” O'Hare said.

Most of the Dow blue-chips moved higher. The biggest gains were seen by IBM (up 0.9 percent) and telecommunications company Verizon Communications (up 1.3 percent).

Men's Wearhouse rose 14.5 percent despite reporting a deeper loss than expected. The clothing chain announced a $200 million share repurchase program and said it hired investment bank Jefferies to help it consider “strategic alternatives” for its K&G discount stores.

EMC and VMware added gains for a second day after unveiling their ambitious new joint initiative for a cloud-based data processing company. EMC shares were up 1.8 percent, while VMware rose 1.7 percent.

Chemical company LyondellBasell gained 2 percent after announcing new ethylene projects Wednesday. The company said it is well positioned to take advantage of copious supplies of cheap US natural gas.

Some leading Internet firms slipped, including Amazon (down 2.5 percent) and E-Trade Financial (down 7.3 percent).

Bond prices fell. The yield on the 10-year Treasury rose to 2.06 percent from 2.02 percent late Wednesday, while the 30-year yield moved to 3.24 percent from 3.22 percent. Bond prices and yields move inversely. - Sapa-AFP