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Stocks Finish Mixed in Thin, Choppy Session

Thursday, 29 Sep 2011 | 4:25 PM ET

Stocks erased a strong rally but still finished off their worst levels Thursday in thin, choppy trading as the Dow and S&P rebounded from afternoon lows.

Stocks started the session sharply higher following several robust economic news and and after Germany's parliament passed a crucial vote which approved the reforms to the EFSF.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average gained 143.08 points, or 1.30 percent, to finish at 11,153.98, rebounding from its afternoon lows, led by Travelers and Bank of America .

The S&P 500 rose 9.34 points, or 0.81 percent, to end at 1,160.40. The Nasdaq slid 10.82 points, or 0.43 percent, to close at 2,480.76.

The CBOE Volatility Index, widely considered the best gauge of fear in the market, finished below 39.

Among key S&P sectors, banks gained, while consumer discretionary lagged.

“We’re stuck in a range between 1,120-1,220 on the S&P,” said Mark McLain, managing director at Landenburg Thalman, adding that should stocks break below the range, investors should brace for an acceleration of selling.

Market volatility is likely to remain high as traders continue to react to European headlines and attempt to gauge the commitment of governments and institutions as they work to prevent a Greek default.

European shares gainedafter Germany's parliament approved reforms to EFSF that would allow the fund to participate in the primary market and to recapitalize European banks. Potential rebels within Chancellor Angela Merkel's ruling coalition were contained as 523 lawmakers voted in favor of the reform, with 85 opposing and three abstaining.

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The vote come as international auditors return to Athens to deliver a verdict on whether Greece's tougher austerity measures qualify for aid to avert a default that would plunge the country into bankruptcy.

Banks rallied with Morgan Stanley and Citigroup trading higher. European banks were also sharply higher including UBS and Credit Suisse .

Meanwhile, Deutsche Bank trimmed estimates on Morgan Stanley and Goldman Sachs citing challenges in investment bank and trading operations due to "a weaker macro backdrop/capital market trends."

On the tech front, Hewlett-Packard hired Goldman Sachs to help defend itself against possible activist investors who could push for change, according to the Wall Street Journal.

Advanced Micro Devices plunged to the bottom of the S&P 500 after the chipmaker slashed its revenue and profit forecastfor the third quarter, citing manufacturing issues that put even further behind rival Intel . In addition, at least five brokerages cut their price target on the firm.

Micron is slated to post earnings after-the-bell tonight.

Shares of U.S.-listed Chinese companies such as Sohu.com , Baidu and Sina declined sharply after a top securities regulator said U.S. criminal authorities are investigating accounting irregularities at Chinese companies listed on U.S. stock exchanges.

Amazon.com slipped a day after the online retail giant launched its color-screen tablet Kindle Fireat a mass market-friendly $199 to compete with Apple's iPad.

Meanwhile, Research In Motion slumped after an analyst at Collins Stewart said the BlackBerry maker may have halted production of its PlayBook tabletand canceled additional tablet projects.

Netflix plunged sharply to hit a 52-week low as the online-streaming firm continues to face fierce competition and after a report that Microsoft may be planning to expand content available through its Xbox gaming console.

Nokia rallied after the world's largest cellphone maker said it will shed up to 3,500 jobs globally as it realigns its business.

Luxury retailers were sharply lower including Tiffany and Coach .

On the M&A front, Harleysville skyrocketed more than 80 percent after Nationwide Mutual Insurance said it will acquire the insurance group for $760 million.

And workers represented by the United Auto Workers union approved a four-year labor contract with General Motors , the first such deal for the automaker since its 2009 bankruptcy. Meanwhile, S&P raised its credit rating on GM to BB+ from BB- and upped its outlook to "positive."

Treasury prices declined furtherafter the government auctioned $29 billion in seven-year notes at a high yield of 1.496 percent and bid-to-cover of 3.02. This is the last of $99 billion in new sales this week.

On the economic front, the U.S. economy grew at an annual rate of 1.3 percent, according to the Commerce Department, pointing to slow growth rather than a recession.

Meanwhile, weekly jobless claims fell more than expected, down 37,000 to 391,000 for the week ending Sept. 24, reported the Labor Department.

And corporate profit rose at a 4.3 percent rate in the second quarter, according to the Commerce Department, the biggest increase in a year.

However, pending home sales fell in August to their lowest level in four months, dragged by sales in the Northeast, according to the National Association of Realtors.

—Follow JeeYeon Park on Twitter: twitter.com/JeeYeonParkCNBC

On Tap This Week:

FRIDAY: Personal income & outlays, Chicago PMI, consumer sentiment, Fed's Bullard speaks

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