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Stocks surged higher Thursday, posting a second straight day of gains that helped erase some of the losses set over a five-session losing streak. The Dow ended nearly 300 points higher, riding a wave of investor optimism on steady oil prices and upbeat job market news.

The Labor Department reported that Initial claims for state unemployment benefits slipped by 4,000 to a seasonally adjusted 294,000 for the week ended Jan. 3, above the 290,000 estimate but below the 298,000 in the prior week. "Jobless claims they were about in line, maybe a little weaker than expected but the jobs market still points to jobs growth," said Peter Cardillo, chief market economist at Rockwell Global Capital in New York.

Recouping a 461-point deficit tallied on Monday and Tuesday, the Dow Jones Industrial Average rose as much as 331 points, and unofficially closed up 322.19, or 1.8 percent, to 17,906.71, with all 30 of its components advancing. The S&P 500 added 36.22 points, or 1.8 percent, to 2,062.12, with all 10 of its major industry groups rising. The Nasdaq gained 85.72 points, or 1.8 percent, to 4,736.19.


-- CNBC, Reuters and NBC News staff