* Sprint volume surges, shares jump on Softbank deal reports
* Citigroup sees US stocks as "overweight"
* Safeway down after missing Wall St estimates
* Indexes up: Dow 0.54 pct, S&P 0.73 pct, Nasdaq 0.68 pct
By Atossa Araxia Abrahamian
NEW YORK, Oct 11 (Reuters) - U.S. stocks rose on Thursday
after data showed initial jobless claims at their lowest in more
than four and a half years, pointing to signs of continued
improvement in the jobs market.
Sprint Nextel Corp shares jumped 19 percent to $5.98
on news Japan's Softbank Corp was in talks to buy a
majority stake in the wireless carrier. A transaction would
represent a new shakeup in the rapidly changing U.S. wireless
market and possibly reflect a more conducive environment for
More than 320 million shares of Sprint Nextel changed hands
in U.S. trading by 11:30 a.m. ET (1530 GMT), making it the
busiest day in the stock's history.
Clearwire Corp, in which Sprint holds a majority
interest, surged 38 percent to $1.79. MetroPCS shares
dropped 6.2 percent to $11.29 as a Softbank deal would rule out
Sprint making a counter-bid.
"The Sprint-Nextel deal shows there are deals to be had,"
said Brian Amidei, managing director and partner at wealth
management firm HighTower Advisors. "It shows there is still
corporate growth, and that companies are looking to find ways to
grow their footprint even in this economy."
The number of Americans filing new claims for unemployment
benefits last week dropped by 30,000 to a seasonally adjusted
339,000, against the 370,000 economists had predicted.
The jobs report follows last week's report that said
September's unemployment rate fell to 7.8 percent.
The gains come after the S&P 500's biggest four-day drop
since late July. The benchmark is down 2 percent amid concern
about the effect of slowing world growth. The S&P 500 is down
dropped 0.6 percent thus far in October.
The Dow Jones industrial average was up 72.49 points,
or 0.54 percent, at 13,417.46. The Standard & Poor's 500 Index
was up 10.44 points, or 0.73 percent, at 1,443.00. The
Nasdaq Composite Index was up 20.84 points, or 0.68
percent, at 3,072.62.
Citigroup upgraded its stance on U.S. equities to
"overweight" in a note this morning, citing cheap equity
valuations and aggressive central bank actions to stimulate the
Shares of supermarket chain Safeway Inc, the
second-largest U.S. supermarket chain, fell nearly 5 percent
after it missed Wall Street's targets. Competitor Walmart
was up 0.5 percent to $75.74 after hitting a 52-week
high on Wednesday.
Earlier this month, the National Retail Federation forecast
4.1 percent growth in sales for the coming holiday season,
compared to 5.6 percent growth in 2011.
Other data showed the U.S. trade deficit widened in August
to $44.2 billion. U.S. exports fell for a fifth consecutive
month and imports declined slightly, hinting at weaker U.S. and