Stocks Rocket on Recovery Signs

Stronger than expected retail sales and a drop in weekly jobless claims ahead of Friday’s monthly government jobs report sent stocks soaring on Thursday.

A blockbuster merger in the tech sector didn’t hurt. Verizon (NYSE: VZ) shares gained more than 5% on news that it will acquire Alltel for $28.1 billion.

The result was the best gain for stocks in more than a month. Even Lehman Brothers (NYSE: LEH) gained despite persistent worries about its financial health, and MBIA (NYSE: MBI) and Ambac (NYSE: ABK) rallied despite damaging credit ratings downgrades from Standard & Poors.

Cisco (NASDAQ: CSCO) and Microsoft (NASDAQ: MSFT) led the Nasdaq with gains of nearly 3% each, and AMD (NYSE: AMD) jumped another 8% on its new notebook platform and an antitrust win against Intel (NASDAQ: INTC) in South Korea.

Level 3 (NASDAQ: LVLT) jumped 13% after selling its advertising distribution business.

ADC Telecom (NASDAQ: ADCT) jumped 9% on its results, while Ciena (NASDAQ: CIEN) fell 8% on spending and margin concerns despite better than expected results.

Yahoo (NASDAQ: YHOO) shed 1.8% on its latest squabble with billionaire investor Carl Icahn.

National Semi (NYSE: NSM) kept the good news going in late trading with quarterly results that topped analysts’ expectations.

The Nasdaq jumped 47 to 2550, the S&P gained 27 to 1404, and the Dow rose 214 to 12,604. Volume rose to 4.35 billion shares on the NYSE, and 2.26 billion on the Nasdaq. Advancers led by a 26-6 margin on the NYSE, and 21-7 on the Nasdaq. Upside volume was 85% on the NYSE, and 83% on the Nasdaq. New highs-new lows were 39-84 on the NYSE, and 97-89 on the Nasdaq.

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