Stocks rise after drop in unemployment claims

NEW YORK (AP) ? Stocks are rising in early trading after fewer people applied for unemployment benefits last week and retailers reported strong sales in August.

First-time claims for unemployment benefits fell to 409,000 last week, the first decline in three weeks.

Macy’s, Target and Costco Wholesale all rose after reporting sales gains that beat analysts’ estimates. August is an important month for back-to-school shopping, which can account for up to 25 percent of retailers’ annual revenue.

Shortly after the opening bell, the Dow Jones industrial average is up 4, or less than 0.1 percent, at 11,619. The Standard & Poor’s 500 index is down less than a point at 1,218. The Nasdaq composite index is up 3, or 0.1 percent, at 2,582.