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Stocks Jump After ISM, Jobless Reports

Stocks shot higher on this first day of the second quarter after encouraging reports on initial jobless claims and manufacturing.

The Dow was up about 60 points in morning trading, and was within 100 points of the 11,000 mark. Most of the 30 components were higher, led by Alcoa, DuPont and AT&T.

The ISM reported its gauge of manufacturing activity rose to 59.6 in March from 56.5 in February. Measures of orders, production and prices were all up, though employment slipped. Economists had expected a more modest uptick to 57. A separate report showed construction spending fell 1.3 percentin February.

The Labor Department said weekly jobless claims fell 6,000 to 439,000, just a shade better than expected but enough to fuel investor enthusiasm after a drop in the market Wednesday.

This helped soothe some jobs jitters ahead of tomorrow's employment report from the government. The market had been rattled in the prior session after ADP report a decline in payrolls last month.

Alas, it wasn't all good news: A report from Challenger Gray & Christmas showed that planned layoffs for March surged 61 percent. The level remains well below the 2009 rate, the firm pointed out.

Investors will get the all-important March jobs report Friday, despite the U.S. market holiday. Right now, the consensus calls for a gain of 200,000 jobs, but whisper numbers have been closer to 300,000.

Banks were mostly higher today, with Bank of America and JPMorgan both up about 1 percent.

Shares of Primerica, the door-to-door insurance-sales company spun off by Citigroup, shot up about 30 percent on its debut. Citigroup rose more than 2 percent.

Ford shares rose ahead of its monthly sales figures, due out shortly.

GM kicked things off this morning, reporting its sales rose 43 percent in March. Toyota expects to see its sales were up as much as 40 percent last month.

Apple shares rose ahead of the release of the iPad this weekend.

US-traded shares of BlackBerry maker Research In Motion fell more than 5 percent after its quarterly earnings missed expectations. And Goldman Sachs cut the company to "sell" from "neutral" this morning due to "reduced confidence" in the firm's earnings going forward.

Micron Technology reported its second consecutive quarterly profit after three years of losses, helping its shares gain.

European shares were higher with better-than-expected euro zone manufacturing data boosting sentiment. Asian shares closed higher with China's manufacturing sector improving.

Still to Come:

THURSDAY: March auto sales
FRIDAY: March jobs report; Stock market closed in observance of Good Friday; Bond market closes at noon

Send comments to cindy.perman@nbcuni.com.