Stocks open higher as unemployment claims decline

NEW YORK (AP) ? U.S. stocks are rising in early trading following strong bank earnings and a decline in applications for unemployment benefits.

The Dow Jones industrial average is up 16 points to 12,595 just after the market opened Thursday. The Standard & Poor’s 500 is up 4 points to 1,311. The Nasdaq composite is up 12 points to 2,781.

Bank of America and Morgan Stanley rose after reporting results that were better than analysts had expected. BofA returned to profit in the fourth quarter while Morgan Stanley’s loss was less than forecast.

The government also reported that the number of people seeking unemployment benefits plunged last week to the lowest level in more than three years. France and Spain held successful bond auctions.