A pair of specialists work at heir post on the...

A pair of specialists work at heir post on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange. Futures for the Dow Jones industrial average rose 29 points to 12,966 on Thursday, March 1, 2012, as retailers reported better than expected February sales. (Feb. 28, 2012) Credit: AP

Banks dodged a big hit from the Greek debt crisis and rallied Thursday to lead the stock market higher. More encouraging news about the U.S. job market also helped stocks rise.

The banks of the world are on the hook for as much as $70 billion in bond-insurance payments if Greece defaults on its debt. But a panel ruled that Greece's plan to restructure its debt should not trigger any insurance payments, at least not yet.

Bank stocks pushed higher in relief. Goldman Sachs jumped 5.2 percent, and Morgan Stanley gained 3.5 percent.

The Dow Jones industrial average added 28 points to close at 12,980.30. That's a gain of 0.22 percent.

Oil climbed $1.77 to $108.84 a barrel. The surging price of oil has weighed on investors' minds in recent weeks. Quincy Krosby, chief market strategist at Prudential Financial, said higher oil prices could eventually cause a sharp drop in the stock market.

"We're going to have a pullback at some point, because money managers want to lock in their profits," she said. "The catalyst could be these escalating oil prices."

The Standard & Poor's 500 index rose 8.41 points to 1,374.09, its highest closing level since June 5, 2008. The tech-heavy Nasdaq composite index rose 22.08 points to 2,988.97.

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