Jobs, factory data give stocks boost

NEW YORK -- Stronger reports on jobs and manufacturing boosted stocks Thursday ahead of the government's employment report for March.

The Dow Jones industrial average rose to a 2010 high on the final day of a shortened week. The stock market will be closed today and the bond market will close early for Good Friday.

Economists predict that the Labor Department will report employers added 190,000 jobs last month. That would mark the second month of jobs growth since the recession began in December 2007.

Confidence grew Thursday after the Labor Department said that initial claims for unemployment benefits fell last week. A four-week average of clams dropped to its lowest level in 18 months.

Manufacturing figures also raised expectations that a recovery is gaining steam. A trade group's report signaled that U.S. manufacturing is growing faster than expected. Manufacturing reports from China and Europe also indicated that factories are busier.

Theme park unable to make big payment

MYRTLE BEACH -- The owners of a $400 million amusement park on South Carolina's coast missed a court-ordered deadline to make a debt payment Thursday.

Attorney David Slough said the owners of Freestyle Music Park were unable to make a $570,000 payment that was inherited when the ex-Hard Rock Park was bought out of bankruptcy court. That means a judgment will be entered against the owners. The park's future was unclear.

Slough said the park will not open this year unless the owners can find an investor. Freestyle opened for the summer last year. The park first opened in 2008 as Hard Rock Park, but struggled in the poor economy. The original owners filed for bankruptcy several months later.

N.C. flooring maker to move its factory

COLUMBIA -- A hardwood flooring company plans to move its manufacturing operations from Charlotte to Lancaster County.

Greyne Custom Wood Co. CEO Nicole Little said Thursday that her company plans to bring its 25 employees in the move and add another 25 when the plant is up and running at the end of April. Little said she expects the plant to turn out $5 million to $10 million worth of high-end finished wood flooring a year. The company sells its products across the country and internationally.

The S.C. Commerce Department says Greyne will invest about $5 million in the new plant and expects to begin hiring workers this month.

Prescription sales rose 5.1% last year

NEW YORK -- Sales of prescription drugs rose 5.1 percent last year, a rebound from 2008, led by demand for antidepressants and cancer medicines.

Higher sales of antidepressants including Eli Lilly's Cymbalta and tumor-fighting therapies such as Roche Holding's Avastin helped bolster pharmaceutical revenue to $300.3 billion, research firm IMS Health Inc. said in a statement.

Drug sales recovered from 2008, when growth of 1.8 percent was the most sluggish in at least 47 years, caused by patients cutting expenses during the recession, IMS said. The rising popularity of cheaper generic versions of medicines still kept growth slower than in 2006, when sales increased 8 percent.