NEW YORK (AP) -- A pair of better economic reports helped nudge the U.S. stock market up in early trading Thursday, even as global markets headed lower.
The Standard & Poor's 500 index was up four points, or 0.3 percent, to 1,617 after the first hour of trading. The index is coming off three days of losses.
The number of Americans seeking unemployment benefits fell to 334,000, below what economists had expected. Jim O'Sullivan, chief U.S. economist at High Frequency Economics, wrote in a note to clients that the government's weekly numbers, while volatile, "continue to signal an improving labor market."
The government also reported that U.S. retail sales increased 0.6 percent in May from April. That's up from a 0.1 percent gain in April and the fastest pace since February.
Gannett jumped 26 percent, leading the S&P 500 index, after the newspaper publisher announcing a deal to buy Belo, another media company, for $1.5 billion. Gannett's stock gained $5.27 to $25.13.
The Dow Jones industrial average rose 34 points, or 0.2 percent, to 15,029. The Nasdaq composite rose eight points, or 0.2 percent, to 3,407.
In Japan, the benchmark Nikkei 225 index slumped 6.4 percent as doubts grew that Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's economic turnaround plan will succeed. The Japanese market is down 20 percent since May 22. It's still up 20 percent this year.
The yield on the 10-year Treasury note slipped to 2.19 percent from 2.23 percent late Wednesday.
The price of crude oil fell 17 cents to $95.68 a barrel in New York. Gold dropped $13.70 to $1,378.30 an ounce.
Among other stocks making big moves:
— Safeway jumped $2.89, or 13 percent, to $26 after the company said late Wednesday that it would sell its supermarket business in Canada to food retailer Sobeys for $5.7 billion.
— H&R Block sank 69 cents, or 2 percent, to $27.94. The tax-preparation company posted quarterly results late Wednesday that fell short of Wall Street's expectations. Last-minute changes to tax laws and a delayed start to the tax filing season combined to drag down revenue, the company said.
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