The Dow Jones industrial average broke a six-day losing streak Thursday, notching a small gain after the government released better unemployment numbers.
The Dow rose 19.98 points to close at 12,855.04, after rising almost 100 points earlier in the day. The Standard & Poor's 500 index rose 3.41 points to close at 1,357.99.
Before Thursday, the Dow had fallen six days in a row, its longest losing streak since August.
Investors have worried that job growth is fading. They were encouraged by a Labor Department report that applications for unemployment benefits dropped 1,000 to 367,000 in the week ending May 5.
That pulled the four-week average, which economists watch more closely, down to 379,000 _ closer to the 375,000 level, which suggests job growth is strong enough to reduce the unemployment rate.
Eight out of 10 industry groups in the S&P 500 rose, with only materials and technology stocks declining. Utilities were the biggest gainers, up 0.9 percent, followed by health care and consumer staples.
Tech stocks closed down 0.8 percent, and the Nasdaq composite index fell 1.07 points to 2,933.64. Networking gear maker Cisco Systems plunged 10.5 percent after warning that technology spending appears to be slowing and that its revenue would rise much less than analysts expected this quarter. Hardware maker Oracle fell 2.7 percent.
Stocks also benefited from news that Spain would take over Bankia SA, the country's fourth-largest bank, which has high exposure to bad property loans. The government hopes to convince investors that Spain won't need a bailout. The yield on Spain's 10-year debt fell 0.12 percentage points to 5.95 percent _ meaning its borrowing costs fell slightly because of reduced worries about its debt.
Spain's IBEX 35 index jumped 3.4 percent.
"Europe's problems are by no means being solved. But the feeling that there is some support there probably helps sentiment a little bit," said Ed Hyland, a global investment specialist with J.P. Morgan Private Bank.
Other European stocks rose, too. Britain's FTSE 100 closed 0.3 percent higher, and Germany's DAX rose 0.7 percent.
Other U.S. stocks on the move:
_ Pfizer rose 1.7 percent after the drugmaker got preliminary approval for an arthritis drug.
_ Avon fell 3.3 percent after beauty products maker Coty Inc. raised its offer to buy Avon but also said it will withdraw the latest bid if it doesn't get a response by the close of business Monday. Some analysts have been saying Avon is worth more.
_ Kohl's fell 4.3 percent after price-cutting led to a 23 percent drop in its first-quarter profit.
Oil prices rose 8 cents to $96.89 per barrel.