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Dow Ends Up 1.3%, Led by Travelers, MMM

Stocks rallied Thursday as investors cheered some big-name earnings beats and shrugged off a disappointing jobless report.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average gained 131.95, or 1.3 percent, to close at 10,081.31. The S&P 500rose 1.1 percentand the Nasdaq gained 0.7 percent.

Financials led the rally after Travelers reported its profit more than quadrupled, handily beating expectations, and raised its full-year forecast. Travelers shares jumped 7.7 percent.

PNC Financial rallied 13 percent after the regional bank beat expectations.

McDonald's gained 2 percent after the fast-food giant topped forecasts and said it expects same-store sales to remain positivein October.

AT&T rose 0.6 percent after the telecom beat expectations, helped by the iPhone, but revenue slipped from a year earlier.

Merck added 0.6 percent after the drug maker said its net tripled in the quarter, helped by stronger salesand the sale of its animal-health business, which was required for its purchase of Schering-Plough. That acquisition is going to catapult Merck from the No. 8 drugmaker to No. 2.

More upbeat earnings reports after the bell late Wednesday from eBay and Amgen, both of which saw earnings beat Wall Street estimates.

After the bell today, we'll get reports from Amazon, American Express, Broadcom and Capital One, among others.

Microsoft shares finished flat as the software giant releases its Windows 7 operating system today and opens its first retail store — in Scottsdale, Ariz.

Analysts said the new operating system may help jump-start corporate spending, but for some computer makers, it may not be until the second half of next year.

In the day's economic news: An index of leading economic indicators rose 1 percentin September, a two-year high and more than the 0.8-percent expected. And jobless claims rose 11,000 to a seasonally adjusted 531,000 last week, more than expected. And the previous week was also revised higher by 6,000.

The U.S. pay czar announced that executives at 7 bailed-out firms would have their pay cut by as much as 90 percent. The companies are: AIG, Bank of America, Citigroup, General Motors, Chrysler, GMAC and Chrysler Financial.

Other factors are waylaying the stock market's recent advances—ranging from Walmart's price cuts to analyst Richard Bove's downgrade of Wells Fargo to rising oil prices.

Oil settled near $81 a barreland the dollar reboundedafter the euro on Wednesday topped $1.50 against the U.S. currency. Gold dropped to $1057.80 a troy ounce.

Still to Come:

FRIDAY: Fed chief Bernanke speaks; existing-home sales; Fed's Kohn speaks; Earnings from Microsoft, Honeywell and Ingersoll-Rand

Send comments to cindy.perman@nbcuni.com.