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The Associated Press

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Rally lifts stocks back to pre-recession levels

NEW YORK (AP) â¿¿ The last time the stock market was this high, the Great Recession had just started, and stocks were tumbling into a headlong descent.

On Thursday the market moved swiftly in the other direction. The Dow Jones industrial average hit its highest mark since December 2007, and the Standard & Poor's 500 index soared to its highest level since January 2008 in a rally that seemed destined to mark a milestone: American stocks have come almost all the way back.

A long-anticipated plan to support struggling countries in the European Union provided the necessary jolt, and the gains were extraordinarily broad. All but 13 stocks in the S&P index were up. European markets surged, too.

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US jobs outlook improves as campaign heats up

WASHINGTON (AP) â¿¿ The jobs outlook in the U.S. brightened a bit Thursday just before President Barack Obama was to make his case for re-election to the American people.

Fewer people applied for unemployment benefits last week, the government reported. And companies boosted hiring in August, according to a private survey.

A far more consequential report politically â¿¿ the government's unemployment and hiring figures for August â¿¿ will come out Friday, just as the presidential race enters its stretch run. Jobs are the core issue in the race, and that report could sway some undecided voters.

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ECB unveils aggressive bond plan to save euro

FRANKFURT, Germany (AP) â¿¿ The European Central Bank unveiled its most ambitious plan yet to ease Europe's financial crisis with a plan to buy unlimited amounts of government bonds to help lower borrowing costs for countries struggling to manage their debts.

Large-scale purchases of short-term government bonds would drive up their prices and push down their interest rates, or yields, taking some pressure off of financially stressed governments such as Spain and Italy.

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