NEW YORK (AP) -- Stocks rebounded Thursday after the previous session's big drop, with investors eager to take advantage of bargains and cheered by a milder-than-expected drop in manufacturing activity in the Philadelphia region. The Dow Jones industrial average rose more than 120 points.
Earlier Thursday, stocks wobbled due to economic worries after the Labor Department said the number of newly laid off workers filing for unemployment benefits rose last week by a more-than-anticipated 22,000 to 378,000. That level is the highest in nearly two months.
But Wall Street found reason to buy back into stocks when the Philadelphia Federal Reserve said manufacturing activity is dropping in March by less than it did in February, and by less than many economists anticipated.
Investors appeared relieved about the Philadelphia Fed's report, but economic jitters are far from alleviated - in addition to the disappointing jobless claims report, the Conference Board said Thursday its index of leading economic indicators fell, as expected, for the fifth straight month in February.
The markets are apt to stay volatile for some time, as investors digest news on the economy and the troubled financial sector.
"It's the every-other-day theory - up one day, and down the next," said Scott Brown, chief economist at Raymond James & Associates.
In late morning trading, the Dow rose 121.95, or 1.01 percent, to 12,221.61.
Broader stock indicators also advanced. The Standard & Poor's 500 index rose 12.72, or 0.98 percent, to 1,311.14, and the Nasdaq composite index rose 19.46, or 0.88 percent, to 2,229.42.
On Wednesday, stocks plummeted, giving back much of Tuesday's big advance as investors grew worried - once again - about the possibility of further troubles at banks with mortgage-related debt on their books. After surging 420 points on Tuesday, the Dow dropped nearly 300.
Bond prices slipped. The yield on the benchmark 10-year Treasury note, which moves opposite its price, rose to 3.37 percent from 3.34 percent late Wednesday. Bond trading will be finishing early Thursday ahead of Good Friday, when all the U.S. financial markets will be closed.
In earnings news, Nike Inc. reported late Wednesday a 30 percent gain in quarterly profit, signaling to Wall Street that some companies are faring well despite the credit crisis. Nike said sales overseas increased largely because of the weak dollar.
A plunge in commodities prices also gave investors some hope that lower energy and food prices might boost consumers' discretionary spending. Crude oil fell back below $100 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange, and gold prices sank.
Some energy and metals companies fell on the pullbacks, however. ConocoPhillips fell 20 cents to $73.41; Barrick Gold Corp. fell $2.13, or 4.8 percent, to $43.06; and Newmont Mining Corp. fell $1.53, or 3.8 percent, to $47.17.
In other corporate news, Borders Group Inc., which has been reporting disappointing earnings in recent quarters, revealed early Thursday it may put itself up for sale. The nation's second-largest bookseller said it has lined up $42.5 million in financing so it can continue operating. Borders fell $2.37, or 33 percent, to $4.71.
The dollar rose against other major currencies, while gold prices sank.
The Russell 2000 index of smaller companies rose 10.96, or 1.65 percent, to 675.09.
Advancing issues outnumbered decliners by about 3 to 2 on the New York Stock Exchange, where volume came to a heavy 1.12 billion shares.
Stock markets overseas were mostly lower. Hong Kong's Hang Seng Index fell 3.5 percent, but the Shanghai Composite Index closed 1.1 percent higher after an early plunge. In afternoon trading, Britain's FTSE 100 fell 1.07 percent, Germany's DAX index lost 0.32 percent, and France's CAC-40 0.35 percent.
Japan's markets were closed for a national holiday.
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