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Friday, March 4, 2011

Dow jumps 190 on jobs data, lower oil (ext)

NEW YORK (CNNMoney) -- U.S. stocks posted their best day in three months on Thursday as Wall Street rallied behind a strong unemployment claims report along with a modest drop in energy prices.

At the preliminary close, the Dow Jones industrial average (INDU) rose 191 points, or 1.6%, to 12,258. The gains were the best for the blue-chip indicator in 2011 and the largest since Dec. 1.

The S&P 500 (SPX) added 22.5 points, or 1.7%, to 1331; and Nasdaq (COMP) composite climbed 51 points, or 1.9%, to 2799.

Thursday's rally was fairly broadbased and held steady the entire day.

Wall Street's bulls rallied behind a considerably better-than-expected weekly jobless claims report, which showed the number of people who filed for benefits dropping to its lowest level since May 2008, along with a modest cooling in energy prices.

Oil fell 40 cents a barrel on news reports that Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi mightagree to a peace negotiations mediated by Venezuela's Hugo Chavez.

The Labor Department reported that initial jobless claims totaled 368,000 in the week ended Feb. 26 -- the lowest weekly figure since May 31, 2008.

"The economic data this week has just been exceptional, it's really created an optimistic mood going into Friday's jobs report" said Paul Zemsky, head of asset allocation with ING Investment Management.

The dollar rose versus the British pound, and made slight gains against the Japanese yen and the euro.

Oil for April delivery slipped 35 cents to $101.87 a barrel. The commodity had been down as much as 1.4% earlier in the day.

Gold futures for April delivery fell $21.30 to $1,416.40 an ounce. On Wednesday gold hit an intraday all-time high of $1,441 an ounce, before setting a settlement record of $1,437.70.

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