Stocks opened higher Thursday as a strong reading on productivity and an easing in jobless claims helped cheer investors during a choppy week of trading.
The Dow Jones Industrial Average shot up more than 100 points, or over 1 percent. Techs were among the early leaders after Cisco posted strong results after the bell Wednesday.
The major averages are coming off two straight mixed sessions, with a late selloff Wednesday wiping out what had been strong gains. Stocks remained strong after the Fed's latest pledge to keep interest rates low for an extended period, but a vote in Washington to limit credit-card rates raised concerns about bank earnings and helped pare much of those gains.
In today's economic news, nonfarm productivity in rose at its fastest pace in six yearswhile new jobless claims and the four-week moving average of claims fell to 10-month lows.
"The steady decline in initial claims is convincing evidence that the pace of firing is tapering off," Zach Pandl, analyst at Nomura Securities International, said in a note to clients. "Overall these data offer more evidence that US labor market conditions are gradually improving."
The Bank of England and European Central Bank both held their interest rates steady, as expected. There had been some buzz that the ECB was considering raising European rates. Only Australia and Norway have so far raised rates. Iceland actually cut rates.
Banks advanced, with Bank of America and Citigroup both up about 2 percent, after a study suggested commercial real estate is likely to bottom in 2010.
Homebuilders also rallied, with Beazer and Lennar among the biggest gainers, after the Senate voted to extend the first-time homebuyers' tax credit through April 30. First-time buyers will be eligible for an $8,000 tax credit. The measure was also extended to current homeowners: Anyone who's owned a home for at least five years and decides to move will get a $6,500 tax credit.