Wall Street advanced slowly at the open Thursday as data showed some improvement in the employment situation even as congressional lawmakers showed few signs of agreeing to new US stimulus package.
About 20 minutes into trading, the benchmark Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 0.2% to 28 262.58.
The broad-based S&P 500 was up 0.3% at 3 445.53 while the tech-rich Nasdaq Composite Index climbed 0.4% to 11 529.71.
Data released before markets open showed 787 000 new jobless claims filed in the week ended October 17, much less than expected, but analysts pointed to worrying trends indicating more and more people heading towards long-term unemployment.
Lawmakers in Washington have been discussing for months over whether to pass a bill to give more support to the jobless and to small businesses, but despite some recent encouraging signs no agreement has come.
"Fiscal stimulus updates will remain in focus with negotiations expected to resume today," Wells Fargo Advisors said.
"Still, market participants tempered their optimism as each day without an agreement narrows the chance of the bill reaching both chambers of Congress before the November 3 election."
Major companies were reporting third-quarter earnings this week, with Coca-Cola Company shares up 1.9% after reporting sales down nine percent from a year ago to $8.7 billion, while profits were 33% lower.
American Airlines stock lost 2.0% after reporting a $2.4 billion loss, while Tesla was up 3.1% after announcing net profit in the quarter rising to $331 million from $143 million a year earlier.
Netflix was trading 0.1% lower after revealing slowing subscriber growth in the third quarter the day before, sending its shares sliding.