More evidence of an improving job market helped lift stocks Thursday.

The Labor Department reported that the four-week average of applications for U.S. unemployment benefits has fallen in the past month to its lowest point since October 2007.

Also, a survey from the payroll company ADP showed that American businesses added 176,000 jobs in August, roughly in line with the monthly average for the year.

The encouraging news came one day before the government releases its closely watched report on job growth for August. Many investors believe that strong growth will ensure that the Federal Reserve will start to reduce, or "taper," its bond-buying program later this month.

The Dow Jones industrial average rose 6.61 points to 14,937.48. The Standard & Poor's 500 index rose 0.12 percent to 1,655.08. The Nasdaq composite 0.27 percent to 3,658.78.

Some retail stocks were among the biggest gainers.

In government bond trading, the yield on the 10-year Treasury note climbed to 3 percent after the jobs reports, the highest level since July 2011. -- AP

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