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Nasdaq Storms to Higher Close

The Dow and the S&P also climb. Optimistic talk from analysts boosts EMC and Intel.

Updated from 3:28 p.m. EST

Tech shares catapulted to a strong finish Thursday as investors dismissed a weak report on jobless claims and focused instead on bullish comments from analysts, including a plea to buy chip heavyweight

Intel

(INTC) - Get Report

.

The

Nasdaq surpassed the psychologically important 2000 level, rising 64.98 points, or 3.3%, to 2044.23, while the

Dow Jones Industrial Average closed up 98.74 points, or almost 1%, to 10,172.14. The

S&P 500 added 10.60 points, or 0.9%, to 1165.27.

J.P. Morgan weighed in on the semiconductor sector this morning, advising investors to purchase shares of Intel prior to Jan. 14, according to televised reports. The chipmaker's shares climbed $2.52, or 7.6%, to $35.52.

Cisco

(CSCO) - Get Report

was the beneficiary of positive comments from Morgan Stanley, which said it believes the company will gain significant market share in Europe in 2002. Shares of the networking giant finished up $1.53, or 8%, to $20.76.

Merrill Lynch said it remains cautious on the oil sector despite Russia's agreement to cut crude production, citing an inventory surplus of 70 million to 100 million barrels for the first quarter of 2002.

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The Labor Department reported worse-than-expected initial jobless claims for the week ended Dec. 29, illustrating that the employment situation is still precarious. The number of people filing first-time applications for unemployment rose to 447,000 from 411,000 the previous week.

EMC

(EMC)

climbed after being upgraded to buy from outperform by Salomon Smith Barney. Salomon believes EMC is close to launching new products and signing partnership agreements. Shares of the data storage company rose $1.79, or 12.1%, to $16.59.

Peregrine Systems

(PRGN)

said it expects to lose 7 cents or 8 cents a share in the third quarter, below the consensus earnings estimate of 10 cents a share. Shares of the software firm plummeted 36.1% to $9.27.

Elsewhere,

General Motors

(GM) - Get Report

plans to offer a $2,002 discount on all of its cars and trucks. The company previously employed a 0% refinancing strategy to lure new customers, which generated strong auto sales following the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

Overseas, the European Central Bank decided to leave interest rates unchanged at a meeting Thursday. The ECB's policymakers have taken a less aggressive approach than the U.S. in their efforts to resuscitate the economy, lowering rates just four times in 2001, compared with the Federal Reserve's 11 cuts.

Foreign stocks were higher across the board, with much of the strength coming from technology shares. London's FTSE 100 added 1.9% to 5319, and Germany's Xetra Dax gained 2% to 5270. In Asia, Japan's Nikkei added 0.8% to 10,543, while Hong Kong's Hang Seng rose 0.6% to 11,424.

U.S. Treasury issues were higher. Around 4 p.m. EST, the 10-year note was rising 14/32, to 98 8/32, yielding 5.10%.