Stocks Opened Higher on Upbeat Economic Data

U.S. stocks opened higher on Thursday after a pair of positive signs on the labor market pointed to improving conditions. The Dow Jones Industrial Average lately advanced 124.10 points, or 0.95%, to trade at 13,220.56. The S&P 500 index gained 8.78 points, or 0.62%, to 1,420.94. The Nasdaq Composite  climbed 22.18 points to 2,999.41.

The U.S. added 158,000 private-sector jobs in October, payrolls processor ADP said on Thursday in the first release since adopting a new way to measure employment. The expansion would suggest upside to consensus expectations the Labor Department will report on Friday that 120,000 private and government jobs were created last month.

Applications for U.S. unemployment benefits fell by 9,000 to a seasonally adjusted 363,000 in the week of Oct. 21-27, keeping them in a range that indicates little change in U.S. hiring patterns over the past few months.

The productivity of U.S. workers and businesses rose 1.9% in the third quarter, with all of the improvement coming in the service sector, the government reported Thursday. During the July-to-September period, the amount of goods and services produced, known as output, rose a faster 3.2% vs. 2.1% in the second quarter, the Labor Department said Thursday.

Discount retailer Target Corp. (TGT) said Thursday a key revenue measure rose 2.4 percent in October, as customers spent more on food and health and beauty items, but the number of people buying items was even with a year ago. Total October revenue, which includes new stores, rose 3 percent to $4.98 billion.

Chrysler had its best October in five years as sales for the month rose 10 percent despite Superstorm Sandy washing out three days of business on the East Coast. The company said Thursday that it sold 126,000 cars and trucks for the month, led by the Ram pickup, which was up 20 percent, and the Dodge Caravan minivan, which saw sales rise 49 percent.

Kellogg Co. (K) says its net income edged up in the third quarter, as the breakfast giant benefited from its acquisition of Pringles chips earlier this year. It earned $296 million, or 82 cents per share, in the quarter. That compares with $290 million, or 80 cents per share, a year ago. Revenue rose 12 percent to $3.72 billion, above the $3.7 billion analysts expected.

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