The gains Thursday follow a Labor Department report that the number of people filing for unemployment claims fell last week while the number of those receiving benefits rose.
The market will be watching Friday's monthly jobs report particularly closely since unemployment is seen as the biggest obstacle in the way of a recovery.
The Dow is up 64 points at 9,345. The Standard & Poor's 500 index is up 8 at 1,003. The Nasdaq composite index is up 16 at 1,983.
Three stocks rose for every one that rose on the New York Stock Exchange, where volume came to a relatively low 1.2 billion shares.