NEW YORK – Stocks soared Thursday after conglomerate General Electric Co., software giant Microsoft Corp., cell phone maker Motorola Inc. and Web portal Yahoo! Inc. came out with unexpected good news and outlooks, giving Wall Street new hopes that a rebound is around the corner.
Major indexes posted gains unseen in nearly two months. The Dow Jones industrial average jumped 237.97 points, or 2.32 percent, to close at 10,478.99, while the technology-dominated Nasdaq Composite Index skyrocketed 103.64 points, or 5.26 percent, to 2,075.68.
The broader Standard & Poor's 500 Index rose 27.95 points, or 2.37 percent, to 1,208.13.
Microsoft raised its quarterly revenue forecast after Wednesday's market's close. Its stock gained nearly 8 percent, or $5.10, to $71.60 on heavy volume of more than 45 million shares.
GE added another dose of cheer to the market and jumped 5.4 percent, or $2.39, to $47.00. The world's largest company in terms of market capitalization reported a 15 percent rise in profits, boosted by its industrial and manufacturing operations.
Together, Microsoft and GE accounted for about one-fifth of the Dow's gain.
Yahoo, one of the most popular Web companies, and Motorola, the world's No. 2 mobile phone maker, posted quarterly results that scraped past consensus estimates. Yahoo climbed climbed 7.2 percent, or $1.23, to $18.26, and Motorola gained nearly 16 percent, or $2.48, to $18.15.
``Microsoft beat forecasts and Motorola said second-half sales are expected to rise. The news hopefully signals that things aren't going to get worse and that's what's propelling the market forward,'' said Robb Parlanti, portfolio manager for Turner Investment Partners, which oversees $10 billion.
Diversified manufacturer and electronics maker Tyco International Ltd. rose $1.27 to $51.77. The company said it is comfortable it will at least meet expectations for its third quarter, and will likely meet its full-year targets.
Now that the Federal Reserve has cut interest rate cuts six times this year, investors are increasingly looking to corporate profitability and performance as the best indicator that the weakened economy is reviving.
The enthusiasm also helped retailers, even those who reported disappointing monthly sales. AnnTaylor Stores rose $1.50 to $32.90, despite reporting a 12.3 percent decline in June sales at stores open at least a year. AnnTaylor also lowered its earnings projections for the second quarter.
There was one weak spot: pharmaceuticals, a sector that usually suffers when investors shift money into technology stocks. Schering Plough was off 75 cents at $35.52, while Merck dropped $1.23 to $61.13. Biotechnology company IDEC Pharmaceuticals Corp. plunged $8.25 to $53.24. The company expects to report profits in line with analysts' expectations, but sales for its drug for non-Hodgkin's lymphoma disappointed investors.
During Wednesday's session, the market wobbled between gains and losses after tumbling to 12-week lows on Tuesday. A dramatic slide in Argentine stocks, spurred by a debt crisis, worried some investors that ailing Latin American economies could hurt sales of U.S. multinational companies.
Meanwhile, the Labor Department reported the number of initial jobless claims for the week ended July 7 rose by 42,000 to 445,000, its highest since 1992. That far exceeded the slight decrease in claims that Wall Street economists, on average, had expected.
A separate report on trade prices showed a 0.5-percent decline in import prices in June, reinforcing perceptions that inflation is not a burning issue as the economy slows.
Data on June chain-store sales will be an appetizer ahead of Friday's release of the government's eagerly awaited retail sales report for June, a key measure of consumer spending.
Advancing issues led decliners about 2 to 1 on the New York Stock Exchange. Volume came to 1.38 billion shares, compared with the nearly 1.37 billion Wednesday.
The Russell 2000 index was up 13.21 at 489.04.
Overseas, Japan's Nikkei stock average rose 3.4 percent. European investors were also in a buying mood. Germany's DAX index advanced 1.5 percent, Britain's FT-SE 100 rose 1.7 percent, and France's CAC-40 gained nearly 1.0 percent.
-- Reuters and the Associated Press contributed to this report.