Stocks rallied Thursday as investors shrugged off a rise in jobless claims and focused on encouraging earnings from Ford and 3M.
A third straight rise in existing-home sales also buoyed the market, helping propel the Dow Jones Industrial Averageabove the 9,000 mark for the first time since January. The Dow rose 188.03, or 2.1 percent, to close at 9,069.29.
The S&P 500rose 2.3 percent, breaking through the 960 mark and causing analysts to project the index will make a run for 1,000.
The Nasdaq jumped 2.5 percent in its 12th straight gain and longest run since 1992.
It was another day of earnings beats.
Ford shares rose more than 9 percent after the automaker beat analyst estimatesonboth the top and bottom lines.
Dow component 3M jumped 7.4 percent after the post-it and Scotch tape maker reported a 17 percent drop in quarterly profit but reduced its loss forecastfor the year.
The market also got a shot in the arm on the economy front: Existing-home sales rose for a third straight month, climbing 0.3 percent to a seasonally-adjusted rate of 4.89 million in June. Inventories fell 0.7 percent.
"The turnaround in the housing market appears finally to be here and indeed may be gaining some speed," Joel Naroff of Naroff Economic Advisors wrote in a note to clients.
"This report reminds us that investors will soon have to focus more closely on when the Fed will start removing some of the stimulus in the system and also how fast they will do so. When we get to that point in psychology, we can really believe the recession is over," Naroff said.
Investors shrugged off a report that jobless claims rose by 30,000to 554,000, snapping a four-week streak of declines. Much of that was attributed to seasonal layoffs and the total number of jobless actually declined.
Qualcomm shares skidded 2.2 percent after the companyraised its revenue target but reported a profit decline in an after-the-bell report Wednesday.
SanDisk exceeded estimates with its latest earnings but saw its shares tumble 11 percent after its outlook disappointed the market.
EBaywas a bright light for the Nasdaq, climbing 11 percent after the online auctioneer beat earnings forecasts.
AT&T shares rose 2.6 percent after the telecom giant beat analyst estimates, helped by strong sales of Apple's iPhone.
Amazonshares jumped 5.7 percent after the online marketplaceagreed to buy Zappos.com in a stock deal valued at about $807 million. Zappos sells mostly footwear but also offers some apparel. Plus, Amazon reports after the closing bell.
Elsewhere in tech, Research In Motion gained 4.3 percent amid speculation circulating in the market that RIM may buy Nortel's wireless assets, which go up for auction on Friday. A bidding war for the precious assets has erupted ahead of the auction. RIM confirmed that it's in talks with a "variety of parties," including Nortel.
McDonald's was the biggest decliner on the Dow, slipping 4.6 percent, after the fast-food chain reported disappointing sales.
McDonald's was one of only three decliners on the Dow today. The other two were Wal-Mart and Boeing .
Meanwhile, UPS shares finished up 2.3 percent after the company said its business appeared to be stabilizing. The stock had been down for much of the day as UPS issued a weak outlookfor the current quarter.
CIT Group tumbled more than 15 percent following news that sugested the lender may wind up in bankruptcy protection if future debt offerings fail to attract enough creditors.
And drugmaker Bristol-Myers Squibbis buying biotech company Medarex for $2.4 billion in cash, a 90% premium over yesterday's closing price.
Still to come are reports from Amazon.com, American Express, Burlington Northern, Broadcom, Chubb, Juniper Networks, KLA-Tencor, Microsoft, and Netflix, due out after the closing bell.
Still to Come:
It's a jam-packed week of earnings, with about a third of the S&P—and half the Dow—reporting.
THURSDAY: Earnings from Amazon, AmEx, Microsoft, Broadcom and Capital One after the bell
FRIDAY: Earnings from Ericsson, Ingersoll-Rand, Schlumberger; Red Hat replaces CIT in S&P 500 after the closing bell
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