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-NYSE up 66.9 (1.2%) to 5,733.34

-DJIA up 45.2 (0.6%) to 8,330.

-S&P 500 up 9.12 (1.03%) to 893.04.

-Nasdaq up 25.02 (1.5%) to 1,689.

GLOBAL SENTIMENT

Hang Seng down -3.04%

Nikkei down 2.64%

FTSE up 0.72%

DOWNSIDE MOVERS

(-) BEXP selling shares.

(-) CLF prices shares.

(-) MGM prices shares.

(-) AMSC beats with Q4 results.

(-) WMT volatile swings between positive and negative territory after Q1 earnings meet.

UPSIDE MOVERS

(+) SNE improves after reporting first annual loss in 14 years.

(+) URBN beats with earnings.

(+) KSS beats by 2 cents, guides in line.

(+) SUMT gained as Vista Equity boosts offer to $4.75/share.

(+) KERX swings to gain on higher revenue.

(+) CME gets analyst upgrade.

(+) WFMI sees continued upside interest after Q2 beat in evening session.

MARKET DIRECTION

The major stock averages close up around 0.5% to 1%, after trading near the session highs with about an hour left in the trading day but paring those gains heading into the final bell.

Despite a soggy pre-market trade, stocks opened on the upside out of the gate after investors eyed bargains among financial and retail shares. Investors also clearly looked past another new record for jobless claims and bellwether Wal-Mart Stores (WMT) so-so sales report.

The tech-concentrated Nasdaq Composite led the broader-market's rally. CA (CA) led gainers after a late-Wednesday earnings beat.

Retailers were in focus Wednesday. Kohl's Corp. (KSS) helped with some lift, after reporting an 11% decline in Q1 profit that still managed to top the Street. The company also lifted its full-year profit outlook. Urban Outfitters (URBN) also contributed with an earnings beat.

While Wal-Mart (WMT) reported earnings in line with analysts' estimates, its CEO said overall business was stable, adding that until unemployment eased, executives were cautiously optimistic about the economic recovery. According to some analysts, WMT earnings were considered better than they appeared because last year's numbers benefited from stimulus checks to consumers. WMT did close down nearly 2%, in the lower end of the day's range and modestly extending the pre-market decline recorded just after its results hit.

Improved retailer results partly offset the Labor Department's report that the number of new claims rose to a seasonally adjusted 637,000, from a revised 605,000 in the previous week, topping analysts' expectations for 610,000. Claims has fallen in four of the past five weeks. The jump was blamed on auto layoffs, some 27,000 alone at Chrysler, dulling some of the concern about the uptick in the numbers.

Oil prices fell below $57 a barrel this morning on the government's jobless report and a new study predicting that oil demand would fall by 3% this year. Front-month crude futures did recover to close up 1%, at $58.62/barrel.

The Paris-based International Energy Agency said it now expects global oil consumption to fall 3% in 2009 to 83.2 million barrels a day this year, 2.6 million barrels a day less than in 2008. It was the ninth consecutive monthly cut the IEA has made to its forecasts. In its previous report, it had predicted a 2.8% drop in demand this year.

Source: Thursday's Closing Update