* ECB cuts rates to support flagging euro zone economy
* U.S. jobless claims fall to five-year low
* Tech shares lift Nasdaq; Apple and Facebook advance
* Indexes up: Dow 0.9 pct, S&P 0.9 pct, Nasdaq 1.3 pct
By Ryan Vlastelica
NEW YORK, May 2 (Reuters) - U.S. stocks closed about 1
percent higher on Thursday, led by tech shares, after weekly
jobless claims figures pointed to improving labor market
conditions a day before the closely watched monthly payroll
The European Central Bank also lifted sentiment, putting the
S&P 500 at another all-time closing high, as the ECB cut
interest rates for the first time in 10 months and held out the
possibility of further action if necessary to boost the euro
The move follows Wednesday's Federal Reserve statement in
which the Fed said it will continue its bond buying scheme to
keep interest rates low and spur growth, and would step up
purchases if needed.
"This shows that central banks are very determined to ensure
that the system is stable and that the global economy continues
to be propped up if needed," said Weyman Gong, chief investment
strategist at Signature in Norfolk, Virginia. "This makes us
very comfortable with U.S. markets for the rest of the year."
Jobless claims fell sharply in the latest week, dropping to
their lowest since the early days of the 2007-09
The data follows a string of underwhelming reports,
including a slow rate of growth in factory activity in the U.S.
and China, which added to concerns about the pace of growth
going into the April jobs report. Analysts are looking for
145,000 jobs to have been added in the month, up from the 88,000
added in March.
"U.S. markets are very focused on jobs, and the claims
report suggests the positive trend of hiring could be
continuing," said Gong, who helps oversee $2.5 billion.
The Nasdaq advanced on strength large-cap tech shares like
Apple Inc, which rose 1.4 percent to $445.52, and
Amazon.com Inc, up 1.7 percent to $252.55. The PHLX
semiconductor index rose 1.4 percent after earlier
hitting its highest level in two years.
Facebook Inc jumped 5.6 percent to $28.97 after
posting strong mobile advertising revenue growth in the first
The Dow Jones industrial average was up 130.63
points, or 0.89 percent, at 14,831.58. The Standard & Poor's 500
Index was up 14.87 points, or 0.94 percent, at 1,597.57.
The Nasdaq Composite Index was up 41.49 points, or 1.26
percent, at 3,340.62.
The S&P ended at a record level and hit a record high
intraday level of 1,598.58 earlier in the session. About 74
percent of stocks traded on the New York Stock Exchange closed
higher while 73 percent of Nasdaq-listed shares closed up.
Visa rose 5.6 percent to $175.40 a day after reporting
strong quarterly results and growth in the key U.S. market. The
stock earlier advanced to an all-time high.
General Motors rose 3.2 percent to $31.16 after
reporting a stronger-than-expected quarterly profit as its North
American business improved and its loss in Europe was smaller
than Wall Street estimated.
With 76 percent of the S&P 500 having reported, 68.5 percent
have topped profit expectations, more than the 67 percent
average over the past four quarters. However, only 45.6 percent
have topped revenue expectations, below the 52 percent beat rate
over the past year.
After the market closed, American International Group Inc
rose 2.6 percent to $43.22 after reporting its
first-quarter results, while LinkedIn Corp slumped 11
percent after its results.
Gilead Sciences shares jumped 4.1 percent to $52.18
after its combination hepatitis C pill proved effective in a
Volume was light, with about 6.02 billion shares changing
hands on the New York Stock Exchange, the Nasdaq and NYSE MKT,
below the daily average so far this year of about 6.36 billion