Stocks end with a bang after jobless claims drop chart for more of today's market action. By Blake Ellis, staff reporter

NEW YORK( -- U.S. stocks rallied more than 1% Wednesday after a huge drop in unemployment claims signaled some signs of life in the depressed labor market.

"Other indicators will bump markets up and down, but employment continues to be the major focus," said Michael Gault, a senior portfolio strategist at Weiser Capital Management.

A drop in new home sales, a dour durable goods order report and ongoing worries about the eurozone couldn't stop the momentum.

"Right now the market is celebrating a better-than-expected jobless claims number," Gault said.

The Dow Jones industrial average (INDU) jumped 151 points, or 1.4%, the S&P 500 (SPX) rose 18 points, or 1.5%, and the Nasdaq (COMP) climbed 48 points, or 1.9%.

Gains were broad based, with all but three Dow components in the black. Boeing (BA, Fortune 500), United Technologies (UTX, Fortune 500) and American Express (AXP, Fortune 500) were among the biggest gainers on the blue-chip index. Tech stocks were also having a nice run with (AMZN, Fortune 500) and Sandisk (SNDK) logging big gains.

Stocks got slammed Tuesday -- with all three major indexes losing about 1.4% -- amid a trifecta of bad news: violence on the Korean peninsula, expanding concerns about Europe's debt crisis, and the Federal Reserve's bleak outlook.

The holiday-shortened week packed Wednesday's session with a full docket of economic reports, but trading is expected to be light -- and volatile -- with many on Wall Street taking a four-day weekend.

Financial markets will be closed Thursday and will close at 1 pm ET on Friday.

After the holiday, investors will be focusing on how retailers fare on Black Friday. It's considered the first shopping day of the critical holiday retail period, and a key barometer of how the next six weeks will pan out.

World markets: Global markets, which sparked Tuesday's sell-off, stabilized overnight as investors moved beyond Korea and welcomed a bailout package for Ireland.

European stocks closed sharply higher. Britain's FTSE 100 gained 1.4%, the DAX in Germany rose 1.8% and France's CAC 40 ticked up 0.6%.

Asian markets ended mixed. The Shanghai Composite gained 1.1% and the Hang Seng in Hong Kong rose 0.6%, while Japan's Nikkei dropped 0.8%.

But in the wake of a deal to rescue the Irish banking sector, attention is now shifting to Portugal and Spain, both of which are far from out of the woods.

"Global markets are appreciating the bailout as it stands right now, but they're not overly exuberant until they see what it means for other European countries that are in similar positions," said Gault.

Economy: Investors had a full plate of economic data to sort through Wednesday.

Jobless claims garnered the most attention. The number of Americans filing for unemployment benefits totaled 407,000 last week, according to the Labor Department. The consensus of economists had forecast 442,000.

"Encouragement is being taken from this jobless claims report," said Matt Kaufler, equity strategist at Federated Clover Investment Advisors. "While unemployment is still high, people are thinking that we've probably seen the peak and we're going to start a slow descent downward."

Another upbeat report came out after the market opened. The University of Michigan Consumer Sentiment Index rose to its highest level since June in its final reading for November. Economists had expected little change in sentiment.

Among other data, the Commerce Department reported a surprising decline in orders for durable goods for October.

The government said orders for items meant to last three years or more slipped 3.3%. Economists polled by had projected orders would increase by 0.4% in October.

The Commerce Department also released the latest data on personal income and spending. Personal income rose 0.5% in October, slightly outpacing the expected increase of 0.4% forecast by a consensus of economists.

Personal spending rose 0.4% in October, falling short of expectations, which called for a 0.6% increase.

After the start of trading, the Commerce Department reported that new home sales dropped 8.1% in October. Analysts had expected an increase. While the number of new homes on the market is 202,000, there's about a nine-month supply in the pipeline, at the current sales rate.

Companies: Business software maker SAP (SAP) said after Tuesday's close that it has been ordered to pay $1.3 billion to Oracle for copyright infringement by its now-defunct software maintenance unit. Oracle (ORCL, Fortune 500)'s stock rose 2%.

Deere (DE, Fortune 500), the tractor and lawn mower maker, reported earnings per share of $1.07, topping analyst expectations. Shares edged modestly lower.

High-end jewelry chain Tiffany & Co (TIF). reported earnings of 46 cents per share, topping the 37 cents expected by analysts. Shares of Tiffany gained 5%.

Currencies and commodities: The dollar rose against the euro and the Japanese yen, and was flat versus the British pound.

Oil for January delivery rallied $2.61 to settle at $83.86 a barrel.

Gold futures for December delivery fell $4.60 to settle at $1,373 an ounce.

Bonds: The price on the benchmark 10-year U.S. Treasury dropped, pushing the yield up to 2.92% from 2.76% late Tuesday. To top of page

Frontline troops push for solar energy
The U.S. Marines are testing renewable energy technologies like solar to reduce costs and casualties associated with fossil fuels. Play
25 Best Places to find rich singles
Looking for Mr. or Ms. Moneybags? Hunt down the perfect mate in these wealthy cities, which are brimming with unattached professionals. More
Fun festivals: Twins to mustard to pirates!
You'll see double in Twinsburg, Ohio, and Ketchup lovers should beware in Middleton, WI. Here's some of the best and strangest town festivals. Play
Overnight Avg Rate Latest Change Last Week
30 yr fixed3.95%4.01%
15 yr fixed3.10%3.12%
5/1 ARM3.09%3.11%
30 yr refi3.97%4.04%
15 yr refi3.14%3.15%
Rate data provided
View rates in your area
Find personalized rates:
Index Last Change % Change
Dow 18,081.81 57.64 0.32%
Nasdaq 4,786.71 21.29 0.45%
S&P 500 2,087.05 4.88 0.23%
Treasuries 2.29 0.03 1.51%
Data as of Dec 24
Company Price Change % Change
Bank of America Corp... 18.04 0.12 0.64%
Gilead Sciences Inc 92.34 2.89 3.23%
General Electric Co 25.71 -0.17 -0.66%
Cisco Systems Inc 28.57 0.32 1.13%
Apple Inc 112.22 -0.32 -0.28%
Data as of Dec 24


The city's sanitation commissioner is expected to decide whether recycling foam containers is "environmentally effective" and "economically feasible," by January 1, 2015. More

Cheap gas spreads with a half dozen states poised to join Missouri offering drivers gas for less than $2 a gallon. More

To save a rocket, SpaceX will attempt rocket archery: nailing a bullseye by landing a lower rocket booster on a relatively tiny ocean barge. More

According to data from Google Trends and GrubHub, Chinese food remains the most popular type of food order on Christmas. More

After losing their daughter to liver failure and getting hit with $200,000 in student loans, the Mason family is finally getting financial relief. More

Most stock quote data provided by BATS. Market indices are shown in real time, except for the DJIA, which is delayed by two minutes. All times are ET. Disclaimer.

Morningstar: © 2014 Morningstar, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

Factset: FactSet Research Systems Inc. 2014. All rights reserved.

Chicago Mercantile Association: Certain market data is the property of Chicago Mercantile Exchange Inc. and its licensors. All rights reserved.

Dow Jones: The Dow Jones branded indices are proprietary to and are calculated, distributed and marketed by DJI Opco, a subsidiary of S&P Dow Jones Indices LLC and have been licensed for use to S&P Opco, LLC and CNN. Standard & Poor's and S&P are registered trademarks of Standard & Poor’s Financial Services LLC and Dow Jones is a registered trademark of Dow Jones Trademark Holdings LLC. All content of the Dow Jones branded indices © S&P Dow Jones Indices LLC 2014 and/or its affiliates.