Dow Up Over 100 as Debt Fears Ease

Stocks rallied Thursday as fears of contagion from the European debt crisis eased and U.S. jobless claims fell.

The Dow was up more than 100 points, or 1 percent, after gaining 0.5 percent in the previous session. Merck and Bank of America were the early leaders.

"Our view is that (the debt crisis) will not impact the global economic recovery, it will not derail it," Robert Pavlik, chief market strategist at Banyan Partners, told CNBC.

"What you really want to be doing if you're a long-term investor is positioning your portfolio for that continued growth. You want to be overweighted the earlier cyclical sectors," Pavlik said.

The stock market's recent down days have proved much more decisive than its up days. The Dow has risen for 13 of the past 15 sessions. But its gains for the positive sessions total about 487 points, while its losses for the two negative sessions total 339 points.

Jobless claims dropped by 11,000 last week, an encouraging sign for the economy, though it wasn't as big a decline as expected.

Shares of Palm soared following news that it's being acquired by Hewlett-Packard in a deal worth roughly $1 billion. But HP shares slipped.

Elsewhere in the hand-held sector, Apple rose, while Research In Motion fell.

Motorola shares shot up 5 percent after the phone maker reported a surprise profit and projected it would beat expectationsfor the current quarter.

Goldman Sachs shares advanced amid expectations that the company will settle its fraud case with the SEC soon.

Overall, banks continued to rebound after Tuesday's selloff, with Bank of America , JPMorgan and Citigroup all higher.

Senate Republicans dropped their opposition to letting the financial regulation reform bill proceed to the Senate floor for debate. President Obama is urging quick passage of the bill, but Republicans are vowing to implement the changes they want on the floor.

ExxonMobil shares slipped after the oil giant's earnings fell short.

Procter & Gamble beat earnings expectationbs but its shares slipped.

Visa edged higher after the credit-card issuer beat earnings expectations.

Still to come: The Environmental Investigation Agency is out with the weekly natural gas inventory report at 10:30 am, while the Treasury will auction $32 billion in 7-year notes later, with the results available shortly after 1 pm.

Still to Come:

THURSDAY: 7-year Treasury auction
FRIDAY: Berkshire Hathaway annual meeting; AT&T shareholder meetings; GDP; consumer sentiment; Earnings from Chevron

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