Nasdaq hits 5-month high

The major stock gauges touch the best levels in months on JPMorgan Chase earnings. After the close, Google beats.

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By Alexandra Twin, senior writer

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NEW YORK ( -- Wall Street recharged the advance Thursday, with the major gauges touching multi-month highs on JPMorgan Chase's better-than-expected results and anticipation about Google's profit report.

After the close, Google (GOOG, Fortune 500) posted quarterly earnings that rose from a year ago and topped estimates on revenue that rose from a year ago but was shy of forecasts. Shares slipped in after-hours trading after initially spiking.

The Nasdaq composite (COMP) added 44 points, or 2.7%, ending at the highest point since Nov. 5, 2008.

The Dow Jones industrial average (INDU) added 96 points or 1.2% and the S&P 500 (SPX) index added 13 points, or 1.6%. Both closed at their highest points since Feb. 9.

After seesawing through the morning, stocks began making a bigger move higher in the afternoon, before spiking near the close.

Stocks gained Wednesday after a Federal Reserve report on the economy added to hopes that the pace of the slowdown is easing. Such hopes have helped bolster the market for nearly six weeks. Since hitting 12-1/2 year lows on March 9, the S&P 500 has risen 25% as of Wednesday's close.

But gains this week have been minimal as investors have kept an eye on the first big batch of quarterly reports and the latest on the economy.

"The market has clearly surprised everyone to the upside and I think people have to be impressed by the way its been holding on to gains this week," said David Kreinces, portfolio manager at brokerage ETF PM.

"We should see a pretty good continuation of the rally with people buying on the dips," he said. "But that's going to depend on investors grappling with the continued weakness in housing and questions about further bank writedowns."

Friday brings quarterly results from Citigroup (C, Fortune 500) and General Electric (GE, Fortune 500), both Dow components.

Also Friday, the University of Michigan consumer sentiment index is due for release shortly after the start of trading.

Company news: JPMorgan Chase (JPM, Fortune 500) reported a higher-than-expected profit of $2.1 billion, although results were weaker than a year earlier. The company benefited from strength in its investment and consumer banking divisions, but also posted $10 billion in credit costs. JPMorgan shares gained 2%.

Earlier in the week, Goldman Sachs (GS, Fortune 500) also reported weaker quarterly results that nonetheless topped estimates. Wells Fargo (WFC, Fortune 500) last week forecast that it would report a $3 billion profit.

While these reports are seen as encouraging, some analysts are concerned about the fuzzy math banks are using to report results.

Nokia (NOK) reported a more than 90% drop in operating profit versus a year ago amid the global slowdown in the mobile phone market. However, results were expected to be worse and shares rallied 11.4%.

AIG (AIG, Fortune 500) said it will sell its U.S. car insurance business to a unit of Zurich Financial Services for $2 billion, as it begins the process of paying back the billions its received in federal aid. Shares gained 5.6%.

Economy: New home construction slumped almost 11% last month, falling to the second lowest level on record, indicating that the housing market has not yet bottomed.

March housing starts fell to an annual rate of 510,000 units versus a revised 572,000 units in the previous month. Economists surveyed by thought starts would rise to 540,000 units.

Building permits, a measure of builder confidence, fell to a 513,000 annual unit rate from a revised 564,000 unit rate in the previous month. Economists expected 549,000 permits.

The number of Americans filing new claims for unemployment fell to 610,000 last week from a revised 663,000 the previous week. Economists expected 658,000 new claims. Continuing claims, the number of people seeking benefits for a week or more, rose to 6.02 million, an all-time high.

The April Philadelphia Fed index improved to a decline of negative 24.4 from negative 35.0, versus forecasts for a reading of negative 32.

Bonds: Treasury prices slumped, raising the yield on the benchmark 10-year note to 2.83% from 2.76% Wednesday. Treasury prices and yields move in opposite directions.

Other markets: In global trading, Asian markets ended mixed. European markets ended higher.

In currency trading, the dollar gained versus the euro and the yen.

U.S. light crude oil for May delivery rose 73 cents to settle at $49.98 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange.

COMEX gold for June delivery fell $13.70 to settle at $879.80 an ounce. To top of page

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