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Techs Barrel Higher; Rosetta IPO Soars

Stocks ended a rocky session higher Thursday as investors were encouraged by JPMorgan's results and techs rallied amid anticipation of better results from Google after the bell.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average gained 95.81, or 1.2 percent, adding to its 100-point gain from the previous session. The S&P 500 rose 1.6 percent, while the tech-heavy Nasdaq fared the best of the three, jumping 2.7 percent.

Stocks had opened higher as investors chose to focus on the one positive data point this morning, the drop in the headline jobless-claims number, then wobbled before making another move higher in afternoon trading.

The CBOE Volatility Index, widely considered the best gauge of fear in the market, slipped to about 35 after closing the prior session at its lowest level since September.

Google rose 2.4 percent ahead of its earnings, due out after the bell.

Adding to the tech optimism, Finnish handset maker Nokia delivered a positive outlook for the second half after reporting a weak first-quarter profit.

Techs barreled higher, with Dell up 6.6 percent, Apple up 3.2 percent and Microsoft up 5 percent.

Rosetta Stone soared 40 percent on its debut as investors cheered the language-learning company's IPO.

JPMorgan Chase rose 2.1 percent after the bank reported its earnings fell butbeat expectationswith earnings of 40 cents a share on revenue of $25.03 billion. The company set aside $10 billion against credit losses, more than twice the previous year.

And Goldman Sachs ended flat after Rochdale Securities analyst Richard Bove upgraded the stock to "buy" from "neutral," and raised his price target on the stock to $152, saying the bank has firmed up its cash flow.

In the day's economic news: Initial jobless claims fell for second straight weekto 610,000. However, continuing claims topped 6 million for the first time.

And housing starts dropped 10.8 percent in March after a 17.2-percent rise in February. Meanwhile, foreclosure activity leapt 46 percentin March from a year earlier, hitting a record high as mortgage companies' moratoriums came to an end, RealtyTrac reported.

The Philadelphia Federal Reserve delivered some encouraging news on the manufacturing front, reporting that a gauge of regional factory activity contracted much less in April than in March.

That followed an encouraging report from the New York Fed on Wednesday but market pros said they found nothing to cheer about in the report.

Tempering optimism in the market was news that General Growth Properties , the second-largest mall operator, has filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection, making it one of the biggest victims of the credit crisis yet.

AIG is close to selling its US auto-insurance businessto Swiss insurer Zurich Financial Services for roughly $1.5 billion.

General Motors shares rose 2.7 percent after the auto maker told U.S. dealers it was accelerating its timetable for closing dealershipsas it rushes to meet the government's restructuring deadline on June, Reuters said, citing sources.

Sun Microsystems gained 4.4 percent, even after IBMspurned its advances for new merger talks.

Among the day's other earnings news: Motorcycle giant Harley Davidson narrowly missed Wall Street expectations, but shares gained 5.7 percent after the company affirmed its full-year shipment plans.

Southwest Air shares tumbled 7.1 percent after the carrier reported a loss of 3 cents a share, just shy of estimates, citing weak demand as customers cut back. The carrier also said it will offer voluntary buyoutsto prune its work force and freeze hiring and pay for top officials.

USA Today publisher Gannett reported its profit dropped 60 percent, kicking off what might be the worst quarter yet for newspapers. Still, shares rose 3.2 percent as the results beat expectations by a penny.

Trading was active, with 1.61 billion shares changing hands on the New York Stock Exchange. Advancers outpaced decliners, 4 to 1.

Still to Come:

THURSDAY: Earnings from Google after the bell
FRIDAY: CNBC's 20th Anniversary; consumer sentiment; Bernanke speaks; Earnings from Citigroup, GE and Mattel

Send comments to cindy.perman@nbcuni.com.