NEW YORK (CNN/Money) -
U.S. stocks jumped at the open Thursday, despite continuing worries that a U.S.-led attack on Iraq could be creeping ever closer, encouraged by some better-than-expected economic news.
Around 9:35 a.m. ET, the Dow Jones industrial average (up 35.50 to 7842.48, Charts), Nasdaq composite (up 9.01 to 1312.69, Charts) and the S&P 500 index (up 4.14 to 831.69, Charts) all logged modest gains. The markets fell Wednesday for the second time in three days.
The government reported that durable goods orders rose 3.3 percent in January after a 0.2 percent decline in December. The reading was significantly better than Wall Street's expected 1 percent gain. New orders for nondefense capital goods excluding aircraft, a measure of corporate spending, grew by 5.4 percent.
But, in a separate report, the Labor Department said new jobless claims for the week rose 11,000 to 417,000, compared with economists' expected a drop to 390,000 from 402,000 in the previous week.
Investors also awaited a reading on new home sales for January set for 10 a.m. ET. Economists expect decrease to an annual rate of 1,050,000 from 1,082,000 in December.
Despite the opening's gains, the tensions with Iraq continued to keep hold on investors and some traders said the rally could be short-lived.
In the latest developments, President Bush said late Wednesday that a democratic Iraq would require a commitment from the United States and its allies, and would be preferable to the regime of Saddam Hussein. Meanwhile, France's prime minister Jean Pierre Raffarin said waging war against Iraq without letting the inspection process run its course would be "precipitous and illegitimate."
Also adding pressure, the United States said North Korea has restarted a nuclear reactor, signaling that the Pyongyang government has resumed its nuclear weapons program.
Oil prices continued to rise near highs hit during the 1991 Gulf War. Brent oil futures for April delivery gained 57 cents to $33.64 a barrel in London. The Department of Energy said Wednesday that crude inventories fell by one million barrels last week.
Treasury prices slipped in early trading, with the 10-year note yielding 3.77 percent.
Gold for April delivery fell $1.40 an ounce to $352.70. The dollar rose against the yen and euro.
European markets were mixed in midday trading. In Asia, the Tokyo and Hong Kong markets finished just this side of positive on light volume.
On the corporate front, Goldman Sachs said that six of its analysts have left the company. A source told CNNfn the departures were due to tough business conditions, not regulatory concerns.