Stocks Gain as Investors See Signs of Hope

Spiking jobless claims couldn’t keep stocks down on Thursday, as reassuring words from Merrill Lynch and encouraging results from Research In Motion and Micron Technology helped stocks finish the day with modest gains.

Merrill’s comments that the company doesn’t need to raise additional capital eased fears of a worsening credit crunch and helped steady stocks after an early decline on a big jump in weekly jobless claims. Investors will get more data on the state of the jobs market on Friday when the Labor Department releases its monthly employment report. A better than expected services sector reading also helped ease slowdown fears.

RIM and Micron gained 6% each to help the Nasdaq finish in the green. RIM benefited from blow-out results, while Micron rose on hopes that cost-cutting and stable memory prices could help the company rebound.

Apple and SanDisk followed RIM and Micron higher, and Tellabs and Broadcom were other big gainers.

Cisco and Amazon lost 3% each on analyst worries about a U.S. slowdown, while a Merrill Lynch upgrade did little for shares of eBay.

Google lost 2% as it began to shed DoubleClick units and employees, including the Performics search ranking tool.

Dell gained 1% after CEO Michael Dell told analysts to expect more headcount reductions.

Garmin fell 6% on a warning.

The Nasdaq added 2 to 2363, the S&P rose 2 to 1369, and the Dow gained 20 to 12,626. Volume declined to 3.91 billion shares on the NYSE, and 2 billion on the Nasdaq. Advancers led by a 19-13 margin on the NYSE, and decliners led 15-13 on the Nasdaq. Upside volume was 62% on the NYSE, and 60% on the Nasdaq. New highs-new lows were 45-19 on the NYSE, and 38-96 on the Nasdaq.

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