NEW YORK - Wall Street pushed higher Thursday as investors remained hopeful that the economy will improve despite a murky corporate outlook and a disappointing jobs report.
The Dow Jones industrial average closed up 80.04, or 1 percent, at 8,337.65, having declined 144 points Wednesday. Earlier in the day, blue chip stocks fell as much as 22 points.
The broader market also advanced. The Nasdaq composite index rose 30.78, or 2.2 percent, to 1,425.50. The Standard & Poor's 500 index gained 13.67, or 1.6 percent, to 893.58.
Volume was moderate and somewhat choppy in advance of Good Friday, when the market is closed. A regional manufacturing report, meanwhile, helped give stocks a lift.
"The bulls in particular are looking for concrete signs of improvement in earnings, but we're seeing an aimless drift along the bottom," said Keith Keenan, vice president of institutional trading at New York-based Wall Street Access.
Still, "many investors are looking through rose-colored glasses," he said. "But ultimately share prices could come under pressure in the next month or two due to weaker-than-expected earnings in the second half."
For the week, the three main gauges finished higher, with the Dow gaining 1.6 percent, the Nasdaq surging 4.9 percent, and the S&P 500 advancing 2.9 percent.
The Labor Department reported Thursday that new applications for jobless benefits rose last week by a seasonally adjusted 30,000 to 442,000. It was the second-highest level of this year and the latest indicator of the difficulties workers face in the sluggish economy.
But the Philadelphia Federal Reserve's April survey of business conditions came in at minus 8.8, compared with a minus 8.0 for March. April's better-than-expected reading apparently offered investors some hope of a better outlook.
Trading has been uneven in recent days as investors look past the war in Iraq to corporate profits and the economy. Analysts say investors have been generally satisfied with first-quarter earnings, although the outlook for the rest of the year remains uncertain.
"I think the market has a slight upward bias, because people are relatively positive and believe the economy will turn up," said Brian Pears, head equity trader at Victory Capital Management. "But without data to back that up, people lack conviction to make major bets."
Nokia rose $1 to $16.18 after the maker of cell phones reported first-quarter profits that beat Wall Street's estimates.
Broadcom surged $2.55 to $16.60 after the chipmaker posted strong quarterly earnings and forecast double-digit sales growth in the second quarter.
And AMR jumped 77 cents, or 18.2 percent, to $5 on investor relief after flight attendants at its American Airlines unit accepted $340 million in labor concessions, which may help the company avoid bankruptcy protection.
Decliners included Sun Microsystems, which fell 8 cents to $3.24, after the chipmaker reported fiscal third-quarter revenue that fell below analysts' estimates.
United Technologies dropped $2.27 to $60 after the maker of jet engines and air conditioners reported higher profits, but cautioned that second-quarter results may be pressured by weak sales in the commercial aviation market.
Advancing issues outnumbered decliners 5 to 2 on the New York Stock Exchange. Volume was moderate.
The Russell 2000 index, a barometer of smaller company stocks, rose 5.97, or 1.6 percent, to 383.70.
Overseas, Japan's Nikkei stock average finished 0.7 percent lower Thursday. In Europe, France's CAC-40 rose 0.1 percent, Britain's FTSE 100 gained 0.9 percent and Germany's DAX index climbed 2.7 percent.