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Several upbeat reports on the American and Chinese economies, coupled with strong earnings from oil behemoth ExxonMobil, sent stocks zooming higher on Thursday.
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As of 2:50 p.m. ET, the Dow Jones Industrial Average jumped 124 points, or 0.96%, to 13222, the S&P 500 climbed 14.1 points, or 1%, to 1426 and the Nasdaq Composite advanced 40.2 points, or 1.4%, to 3017.
The markets capped October on a weak note, with the Dow sliding some 2.5%. The tech-heavy Nasdaq fared worse, tumbling 4.5%.
November was off to a much better start as traders cheered a round of mostly strong economic data.
The ADP National Employment Report showed the U.S. private sector added 158,000 jobs in October, more than the 135,000 expected. The Labor Department said new claims for unemployment benefits fell to 363,000 last week from an upwardly revised 372,000 the week prior. Claims were expected to rise to 370,000 from an initially reported 369,000.
Planned job cuts by U.S. firms soared 41% to 47,724 to a five-month high in October from September, according to Challenger, Gray & Christmas. The all-important monthly jobs report from the Labor Department is on tap for Friday.
The Conference Board's index of U.S. consumer confidence rose to 72.2 in October from a downwardly revised 68.4 in September. The results missed estimates of a reading of 72.5, but marked the index's highest level since February 2008.
The Institute for Supply Management Manufacturing PMI gauge rose to 51.7 in October from 51.5 in September, the highest reading since May. The index was expected to fall to 51.2. Readings above 50 indicate expansion while those below indicate contraction.
China's official PMI gauge showed manufacturing activity expanding slightly in October after contracting slightly the month before. A separate PMI reading from HSBC showed the manufacturing sector in the world's No. 2 economy contracting at the slowest pace in eight months.
Hongbin Qu, the bank's chief economist for China, said in the report that the data show "industrial activity continues to bottom out following a modest pickup last month."
On the corporate front, earnings season marched on Thursday.
ExxonMobil (NYSE:XOM) posted quarterly profits of $2.09 a share, topping estimates of $1.95. The world's biggest publicly-traded integrated energy company's sales of $115.7 billion beat estimates of $112.4 billion.
Pfizer’s (NYSE:PFE) adjusted third-quarter profit of 53 cents a share came in line with Wall Street’s expectations. However, the drug maker’s sales of $14 billion missed forecasts of $14.64 billion. Pfizer’s board also announced a new $10 billion share repurchase program.
After the close of trading, results are expected from American International Group (NYSE:AIG), Starbucks (NASDAQ:SBUX) and LinkedIn (NASDAQ:LNKD).
Ford Motor (NYSE:F) said Alan Mulally plans to continue serving as president and CEO until at least 2014. Mark Fields was also named COO.
Oil futures were modestly higher. The benchmark contract traded in New York rose 85 cents, or 0.99%, to $87.09 a barrel. Wholesale New York Harbor gasoline climbed 0.13% to $2.634 a gallon.
In metals, gold fell $3.60, or 0.21%, to $1,716 a troy ounce.
The Euro Stoxx 50 rose 1% to 2530, the English FTSE 100 gained 1.2% to 5854 and the German DAX climbed 0.86% to 7323.
In Asia, the Japanese Nikkei 225 edged up 0.21% to 8947 and the Chinese Hang Seng drifted higher by 0.83% to 21822.
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