U.S. stocks rose in response to a government report suggesting that companies are buying more equipment and evidence that the threat of terrorism and war may be easing.
"It doesn't take a lot of positive news to make [the market] go higher," said Edward Hemmelgarn, who manages about $1 billion as president of Shaker Investments "With any signs that the economy is expanding, people are viewing it positively."
The Dow Jones industrial average rose 78.01, or 1 percent, to 7884.99, and the Nasdaq composite index gained 20.26, or 1.6 percent, to 1323.94. The Standard & Poor's 500-stock index rose 9.73, or 1.2 percent, to 837.28. Consumer and health shares contributed more than a third of the advance.
Shares climbed as a Commerce Department report showed that orders for durable goods climbed more than expected in January. Orders increased 3.3 percent, and economists surveyed by Bloomberg had an average forecast of 1 percent growth.
Stocks also got a lift after the Justice Department lowered the nation's terror alert level to "elevated" from "high" after three weeks.
Comcast, the biggest U.S. cable television company, rallied as it raised its 2003 profit estimate and said it would stop losing subscribers this year. Comcast Class A shares gained $1.87, to $28.37, and its special Class A shares advanced $1.85, to $27.37. The company recorded a narrower fourth-quarter loss and boosted its 2003 profit forecast excluding some expenses.
Pfizer, the world's largest drugmaker, rose 90 cents, to $40.74, after it won European Union approval to buy rival Pharmacia for $56 billion. The company agreed to divest five drugs to avoid market concentration that could inflate prices. U.S. regulators must still approve the purchase.
Lucent Technologies, the biggest U.S. maker of telephone equipment, gained 10 cents, to $1.61. The company said it settled a Securities and Exchange Commission probe of $669 million in improperly recorded sales. Lucent doesn't have to pay any fines or restate results, and the company agreed to abide by federal securities laws.
* The New York Stock Exchange composite index rose 39.55, to 4693.53; the American Stock Exchange index rose 1.38, to 828.20; and the Russell 2000 index of smaller-company stocks rose 3.46, to 361.43.
* Advancing issues outnumbered declining ones by 2 to 1 on the NYSE, where trading volume fell to 1.27 billion shares, from 1.33 billion on Wednesday. On the Nasdaq, advancers outnumbered decliners by 3 to 2 and volume totaled 1.25 billion, up from 1.18 billion.
* The price of the Treasury's 10-year note rose $2.50 per $1,000 invested, and its yield fell to 3.74 percent, from 3.77 on Wednesday.
* The dollar rose against the Japanese yen and the euro. In late New York trading, a dollar bought 117.58 yen, up from 117.13 late Wednesday, and a euro bought $1.0763, down from $1.0791.
* Light, sweet crude oil for April delivery settled at $37.20, down 50 cents, on the New York Mercantile Exchange.
* Gold for current delivery fell to $346.10 a troy ounce, from $354.00 on Wednesday, on the New York Mercantile Exchange's Commodity Exchange.