Stocks Gain as Investor Sentiment Climbs

Wall Street extended its recovery from last week's big plunge, rising Thursday after several stable sessions helped buttress investor sentiment and allay some concerns about the economy.

The Dow Jones industrials were up more than 100 points in afternoon trading before pulling back amid rumors a subprime lender would declare bankruptcy. The Dow closed up 68.25, or 0.56 percent, at 12,260.70.

Thursday's advance helped investors speed past lackluster retail sales figures and focus on more promising comments about March sales. Investors also grew more confident following gains in markets in Europe and Asia. The dollar was mixed against major currencies and fought its way higher against the yen, easing some concern about whether global liquidity would tighten.

Investors eager for signals about the health of the economy bet on rising fortunes for U.S. businesses a day ahead of the Labor Department's much-anticipated February employment report. Strong employment is seen as crucial on Wall Street because robust consumer spending has kept the economy charging ahead in recent years. Larger concerns about the economy figured heavily in last week's selloff.

"I think we got a little bit too negative too fast," said Brian Levitt, corporate economist at OppenheimerFunds Inc., referring to the Feb. 27 global selloff that sent the major U.S. indexes down more than 3 percent. "They failed to see the broader picture that there still is fairly good underlying strength in the economy."

Broader stock indicators also put up sizable gains. The Standard & Poor's 500 index climbed 9.92, or 0.71 percent, to 1,401.89, and the Nasdaq composite index advanced 13.09, or 0.55 percent, to 2,387.73.