NEW YORK - Signs of an improving domestic economy are helping stocks for the second straight day. The Labor Department says Thursday that initial claims for unemployment fell to 448,000 last week.
Claims have fallen two straight weeks, but the report was slightly worse than the forecast of a drop to 445,000. Hewlett-Packard's deal to buy Palm and some more upbeat earnings from companies like Motorola and Starwood Hotels & Resorts also provide evidence the economy is improving.
European debt problems remain a focus as Greece tries to complete a deal to receive bailout money.
The Dow Jones industrial average is up 43.83, or 0.4 percent, at 11,089.10. The Standard & Poor's 500 index is up 5.56, or 0.5 percent, at 1,196.92, while the Nasdaq composite index is up 16.42, or 0.7 percent, at 2,488.15.