U.S. stocks extended Thursday gains as Wall Street embraced data showing applications for jobless benefits fell to near three-year low. The Dow Jones Industrial Average rocketed158 points to 1,225. The Standard & Poor's 500 Index gained 16 points to 1,325. The Nasdaq Composite Index rose 38 points to 2,786. Everything is looking pretty good this morning which is amazing since oil remains at a two and a half year high. The techs look to be the main benefactor this morning. The chip and chip equipment stocks are performing great as mid-quarter updates seem to be going well. Research in Motion is up 2% on an upgrade. Apple is zooming higher approaching its 52 week high following the debut of their new Ipad and positive metrics for their business. Google, IBM, and Corning look good. The financials are all modestly higher. Keycorp is up 3% on takeover speculation. Toronto Dominion is up 3% following earnings. The retail news is mixed for the most part. Pier 1 is up 3% after preannouncing better than expected fourth quarter numbers. Big Lots, Foot Locker, Wendys/Arbys, and Kroger are all up on earnings. Chiquita Brands, Limited, and Heinz are lower on earnings. The rest of the sector is modestly higher following February sales numbers. The commodity sector is up, but is lagging the broader markets. The oil drillers are actually lower after a nice run up over the last several weeks. Transocean received a downgrade this morning. Valero Energy is one of the few oil stocks higher following a positive mid-quarter update. Through the first hour the averages remain very strong with the Dow up 165 points and the Nasdaq up 38 points. Oil is down only 25 cents, but doesn't seem to be deterring any investors. The bulls must be focusing on the unemployment data out tomorrow morning. Through the morning the averages remained strong right near the highs of the day. The volatility is only on the upside today. In the afternoon the Dow rose over 200 points while the Nasdaq topped 50 points. One way market today. In the last hour a modest pull back. The Dow finished up 191 points at 12,258, with all but two of 30 components ending higher. It was the biggest point gain since December 1st. The S&P 500 gained 22 points, or 1.7%, to 1,330 with industrials and financials leading an advance in all 10 industry sectors. The Nasdaq Composite rallied 50 points, or 1.8%, to 2,798.
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