* ECB cuts rates to support flagging euro zone economy
* U.S. jobless claims fall sharply to five-year low
* Indexes up: Dow 0.5 pct; S&P 0.6 pct; Nasdaq 0.7 pct
By Angela Moon
NEW YORK, May 2 (Reuters) - U.S. stocks rose on Thursday
amid signs the job market is still healing despite weakness in
the broader economy, and as an interest rate cut by the European
Central Bank, to shore up the euro zone economy, boosted
investors' appetite for risky assets.
After a slew of weak economic data in the past few weeks,
the number of Americans filing new claims for jobless benefits
fell sharply last week to its lowest since the early days of the
"It's been a big momentum rally and I'm impressed how much
the market has advanced despite weeks of weak data," said Frank
Gretz, market analyst and technician for Wellington Shields &
Co., a brokerage in New York.
"But it's also a little concerning that the beaten down
stocks like materials, energy and metals have been the leaders
for the past two weeks or so. That suggests weakness (in the
The S&P energy sector index, up 0.8 percent, was
among the top gainers on Thursday.
The ECB lowered its main interest rate by a quarter point to
a new record low of 0.50 percent, as inflation fell well below
its target level, and amid rising unemployment.
Following the rate decision, trading was volatile as
investors digested remarks by ECB President Mario Draghi at a
news conference earlier on Thursday.
Among other comments, when asked about negative deposit
rates, Draghi said the central bank was technically
The Dow Jones industrial average was up 66.93 points,
or 0.46 percent, at 14,767.88. The Standard & Poor's 500 Index
was up 8.73 points, or 0.55 percent, at 1,591.43. The
Nasdaq Composite Index was up 22.09 points, or 0.67
percent, at 3,321.22.
Apple Inc shares were up about 2 percent at $447,
the biggest gainer on the Nasdaq.
General Motors rose 4.3 percent to $31.46 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.
Shares of Facebook Inc rose 3.2 percent to $28.30
after the social network said late Wednesday its mobile
advertising revenue growth gained momentum in the first three
LinkedIn, which is to report earnings later in the
day, was up 1.2 percent at $197.10.
Other data showed the U.S. trade deficit fell more than
expected in March as imports recorded their biggest drop since
2009, the latest sign of slowing domestic demand.