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Stocks roar back; Dow rises 188 points

Specialist Ronnie Howard works at the post that

Specialist Ronnie Howard works at the post that trades CVS Carremark, on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange on Wednesday, Feb. 5, 2014. Credit: AP / Richard Drew

After a rocky start to the week, stocks roared back Thursday, giving major stock indexes their biggest gain of the year.

The Dow Jones industrial average and the Standard & Poor's 500 index each closed up 1.2 percent, their largest single-day increase since Dec. 18.

The rally helped the market rebound a day after a modest loss and continued a gradual comeback since a plunge of more than 2 percent on Monday.

The Dow jumped 188.30 points to close at 15,628.53. The S&P 500 rose 1.24 percent to 1,773.43. Both indexes were still down about half a percent for the week following the steep drop on Monday.

The Nasdaq composite index gained 1.14 percent to 4,057.12.

Thursday's surge began overseas, where the European Central Bank decided not to cut interest rates. The move propelled major European stock indexes sharply higher.

Then the markets got a dose of good news on the U.S. job market. The Labor Department reported that fewer people applied for unemployment benefits last week.

That report, combined with a private survey on U.S. hiring released Wednesday, appeared to bolster investors' confidence that the government will issue a positive January jobs report Friday.-- AP

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