NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- Stocks finished higher Thursday for the first time in four days, as positive U.S. economic data helped offset fears about Japan's ability to prevent a nuclear meltdown.
A day after the Dow Jones Industrial Average saw its largest decline since August 2010, the Dow added 161 points, or 1.4%, to close at 11,774. The S&P 500 rose 17 points, or 1.3%, to close at 1274 and the Nasdaq gained by 25 points, or 0.9%, at 2642.
Energy shares were among the session's biggest gainers with Chevron (CVX) among the Dow's top performers alongside Hewlett-Packard (HPQ) and Pfizer (PFE). McDonalds (MCD), Kraft Foods (KFT), Cisco (CSCO) and Wal-Mart (WMT) were the only components that finished in the red.Peter Cardillo, chief market economist at Avalon Partners, said there were two factors at play behind Thursday's rally. "One, we had a rebound in the foreign markets this morning, and I think yesterday's deceleration was due to some misinterpretations of comments regarding Japan," he said. "The Japanese are continuing to try and prevent a nuclear meltdown, which I think is helping stocks, but the economic numbers today are also fortifying the market's rebound." The Labor Department said Thursday that initial jobless claims shed 16,000 to 385,000 in the week ended March 12, from 401,000, previously. According to Briefing.com, economists had expected claims to shed 11,000 to 386,000.