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Stocks Soar on ECB Bond-Buying Plans, Jobs Report Optimism

NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- It was a breakout day for U.S. stocks Thursday as Wall Street cheered the European Central Bank's bond-buying plan and a batch of positive employment data raised the stakes for the August jobs report.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average soared more than 244 points, or 1.87%, to close at 13,292, just two points below the session high. The blue-chip index is now up 8.79% so far in 2012 and within 50 points of its intraday peak for the year of 13,338 on May 1.

All 30 Dow components finished higher. The biggest percentage gainers were Alcoa (AA), Bank of America (BAC), Cisco (CSCO), General Electric (GE), Intel (INTC), JPMorgan Chase (JPM), and Microsoft (MSFT).

The S&P 500 jumped nearly 29 points, or 2.04%, to finish at 1432.12, the high for the day and the index's best close since January 2008. The S&P 500 is now up 13.88% this year.

The Nasdaq was surged more than 68 points, or 2.17%, at 3135.81, also its session high and its best level since November 2000. Year-to-date, the index has gained 20.37%.

All sectors in the broad market were in the green, led by basic materials, conglomerates, consumer cyclicals, and financials.

Advancers outpaced decliners by nearly 4-to-1 ratios on both the Big Board and Nasdaq. Volume totaled 3.94 billion on the New York Stock Exchange and 1.92 billion on the Nasdaq.

During the press conference that followed the ECB's policy meeting Thursday, the bank's President Mario Draghi said the central bank stands ready to buy unlimited quantities of short-term Spanish and Italian bonds in the secondary market if either Rome or Madrid requests a full International Monetary Fund-style reform program.

He also said the ECB could buy Spanish and Italian debt as precautionary measures without a full, IMF-style bailout.

Draghi noted the ECB bond purchases will be sterilized and said the central bank will publish its holdings by country every month.

The program will extend to bonds with maturities of up to three years and there will be no cap for yields.

Draghi asserted during the press conference that if governments do not comply with the stringent bailout terms, the ECB will stop buying its bonds.

In addition, Draghi said at least for this year, there would be no buying of Portuguese or Irish bonds.

IMF Managing Director Christine Lagarde said she strongly welcomes the new ECB framework.

Meanwhile, Bundesbank President Jens Weidmann cast the sole dissenting vote on the governing council on the ECB bond buying decision, seeing them as too close to monetary financing and worrying that the plan would undermine the central bank's credibility if reforms slowed in member states.
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