* Divided Fed considers numerical triggers for rates policy:
* Coal stocks boosted by Romney comments
* Retail sales seen strong in September
* Stocks up: Dow 0.6 pct, S&P 0.7 pct, Nasdaq 0.3 pct
By Angela Moon
NEW YORK, Oct 4 (Reuters) - U.S. stocks rose on Thursday
with the S&P up for a fourth session, after data suggested
improvement in the labor market ahead of Friday's closely
watched monthly payrolls report.
The number of Americans filing new claims for unemployment
benefits rose only slightly last week after a big drop the week
before, keeping in place a trend that indicated a mild
improvement in the labor market.
The S&P 500 has climbed 16 percent so far this year. That
strong gain, combined with weak global economic data and
questions of whether Spain's bailout will come to pass, have
prompted some investors to say the rally is starting to look
"The bulls have control over this market, clearly. When
there is no terrible news, the market goes up," said Uri
Landesman, president of Platinum Partners in New York.
"U.S. equities is considered as flight to quality, which is
quite surprising considering the fact that the economy is not
The Federal Reserve may adopt numerical thresholds for
inflation and joblessness that would serve as guideposts for
policy, according to minutes from a September meeting that
revealed some reticence about the U.S. central bank's latest
The Dow Jones industrial average gained 80.77 points,
or 0.60 percent, to 13,575.38. The Standard & Poor's 500 Index
gained 9.63 points, or 0.66 percent, to 1,460.62. The
Nasdaq Composite Index gained 9.13 points, or 0.29
percent, to 3,144.36.
Initial claims for state unemployment benefits rose 4,000 to
a seasonally adjusted 367,000, the Labor Department said, below
economists' expectations for an increase to 370,000.
"The claims data was actually OK, with two weeks in a row
now below 370,000, after two weeks prior above 380,000," said
Peter Boockvar, equity strategist and portfolio manager at
Miller Tabak in New York. "We await obviously tomorrow's
Coal companies' stocks rallied following Republican
presidential nominee Mitt Romney's support of the coal industry
during his televised debate with President Barack Obama on
"By the way, I like coal," Romney said in the debate. Shares
of Arch Coal rose 8.5 percent to $6.73 and shares of
Alpha Natural Resources gained 6 percent to $6.68.
Financial shares led the market higher after Draghi said the
ECB was ready to buy the bonds of euro zone countries that ask
for it, leaving the door open to a widely expected bailout of
Spain. The S&P's financial index gained 1.3 percent.
Draghi, speaking at a regular monthly news conference, also
said "significant progress" had been made in Spain to bring
order to its finances, although more was needed.
The weaker dollar lifted the prices of crude and basic
metals, which helped buoy shares in the energy and materials
sectors. An S&P index of energy shares rose 1 percent,
while an S&P index of materials shares gained 1.3
Data showed U.S. retailers' September sales looked solid as
shoppers wrapped up back-to-school buying and put the brakes on
more big spending before the holiday season.
Costco Wholesale shares rose 1.8 percent to $101.42
after it reported a better-than-expected 6 percent rise in
September sales at stores open at least a year.