--Tech stocks provide a lift to major indexes
--Intel leads blue chips to one-month high
--DJIA 39.55 higher; S&P gains nearly five
NEW YORK--A tech-stock bounce pushed major indexes higher, as heavyweight Intel led blue chips to a one-month high and the tech-centric Nasdaq Composite Index shined.
The Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 39.55 points, or 0.3%, to 13074.04. The Standard & Poor's 500-stock index gained 4.66 points, or 0.3%, to 1413.94 and the Nasdaq rose 15.57 points, or 0.5%, to 2989.27.
In the background, however, was the continued parsing of comments tied to efforts to avert the "fiscal cliff," a set of tax increases and spending cuts set to go into effect starting Jan. 1.
"There does seem to be an uncomfortable silence coming from Washington right now," said Jim Russell, chief equity strategist with U.S. Bank Wealth Management. "We're all hopeful that breakthroughs begin to emerge soon."
Data on the labor market came in slightly better than expected, as jobless claims fell 25,000 to 370,000. Investors next turn their attention to Friday's closely watched U.S. employment report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Tech shares led the S&P 500, gaining 0.8%. Intel rose 1.6%. Shares of Apple gained 1.6%, too, recovering some of the 6.4% loss they took on Wednesday, the biggest one-day percentage drop in four years.
Investors "are looking at particular opportunities and realizing the selloff is way overdone," said Joe Heider, regional managing principal for Rehmann Financial Group, based outside of Detroit, which manages $2 billion in assets.
European markets rose broadly, with the Stoxx Europe 600 up 0.7% after the European Central Bank left its key lending rates unchanged and comments from ECB President Mario Draghi boosted expectations that the central bank could lower interest rates. The U.K.'s FTSE 100 tacked on 0.4% after the Bank of England also left key rates unchanged, as expected.
Japan's Nikkei Stock Average rallied 0.8% to the highest level in more than seven months after polls showed that the main opposition Liberal Democratic Party was on track to reach a majority after the Dec. 16 election. The LDP is seen as broadly in favor of easier monetary policies.
China's Shanghai Composite slipped 0.1%, pulling back from Wednesday's 2.9% surge.
Front-month crude-oil futures lost 1.8% to settle at $86.26 a barrel, while December gold futures rose 0.5% to settle at $1,700.30 a troy ounce. The dollar rose strongly against the euro on Mr. Draghi's statements but was little changed against the yen. Yields on the benchmark 10-year U.S. Treasury bond fell to 1.581% as prices rose.
Among other stocks, Zynga jumped 7.1% after the social gaming company filed paperwork for a gaming license in Nevada, its first step toward offering gambling games.
Walter Energy climbed 5.3% after the U.K.'s Daily Mail reported that BHP Billiton was mulling a cash buyout for the coal producer.
Internet technology provider Akamai Technologies rose 10% after it reached a deal with AT&T to provide its network, which essentially speeds delivery of web content, to AT&T's customers.
Garmin shares advanced 5.7% after S&P Dow Jones Indices said late Wednesday it would add the company, a global positioning system products maker, to the S&P 500. It will replace printing company R.R. Donnelley & Sons, which will be moved to the S&P MidCap 400. R.R. Donnelley shares edged 0.2% lower.
Vera Bradley slumped 12% after the handbag maker reported better-than-expected earnings and revenue, but provided a fourth-quarter outlook that was below current analyst projections.
Freeport-McMoRan Copper & Gold Inc. fell 4.2% and its stock was downgraded by at least six analysts as investors digested Wednesday's surprise acquisitions of oil companies Plains Exploration Production and McMoRan Exploration, which saw shares decline 4.2% and 3%, respectively.
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