Nov. 1, 2012 at 9:57 AM ET
Stocks shot higher on Thursday, boosted by bullish job market and consumer confidence data as trading continued to return to normal following storm Sandy's devastating sweep through the Northeast.
Technology and industrial sector shares led gains as data showed U.S. companies added jobs in October at the fastest pace in eight months, and consumer confidence hit its highest in more than four years.
The numbers paint a rosier economic picture ahead of a key government report on nonfarm payrolls due on Friday.
Volume was near average, with more than 3 billion shares changing hands on the New York Stock Exchange, Nasdaq and NYSE in the early afternoon. Volume had been expected to spike after Sandy forced a historic two-day market closure earlier in the week.
"Numbers this morning provided the market with a decent start," said Rick Meckler, president of investment firm LibertyView Capital Management in Jersey City, New Jersey.
"People are going to go back and forth with the impact of the storm for some of the companies, but now they are focusing on the fact that the rebuilding effort will result in substantial capital spending, and maybe reduce the unemployment rate."
Markets are still recovering from the aftermath of Sandy, which killed dozens of people in North America and the Caribbean, and wreaked havoc up and down the U.S. eastern seaboard.
The Dow Jones industrial average gained 112.14 points, or 0.86 percent, to 13,208.60. The S&P 500 rose 12.23 points, or 0.87 percent, to 1,424.39. The Nasdaq Composite added 35.06 points, or 1.18 percent, to 3,012.29.
Further supporting equity markets and other risky bets, official and private-sector factory surveys in China showed the world's second-biggest economy regaining some traction.
"China bottoming is critical to some of the energy-related and commodity companies, and to some extent, tech as well," Meckler said.
Shares of JDA Software Group , a maker of supply-chain management software, soared 17.4 percent to $44.80 after the company agreed to be bought by privately held rival RedPrairie Corp for about $1.9 billion in cash.
Pfizer Inc , which delayed the release of its quarterly results because of the storm, posted revenue that fell far short of expectations, pushing its stock down 1.7 percent to $24.46.
Exxon Mobil Corp , which like Pfizer is a Dow component, dipped 0.01 percent to $91.16 after reporting a quarterly profit that slipped from a year ago, although it still topped expectations. Exxon's oil and gas output, however, declined more than expected.
Reuters contributed to this report.