NEW YORK (AP) - Stocks are heading higher in early trading after investors received encouraging reports on the economy.
Before the market opened Thursday, the Labor Department reported first-time claims for unemployment benefits dropped for the third time in four weeks.
The four-week average of claims, a less volatile measure, fell for the sixth straight week to 422,750. That's the lowest level since August 2008, just before the financial crisis intensified with the collapse of Lehman Brothers.
In a separate report, the government says rising imports pushed the trade deficit wider in the July-September quarter, a sign that Americans are regaining some of their spending appetite.
The government also said housing starts rose slightly last month, reversing a two-month trend. All the activity last month came from building single-family homes, which rose 6.9 percent. Apartment construction fell 9.1 percent.