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) -- U.S. stocks gained Thursday as

Akamai Technologies



Cliffs Natural Resources


posted profits that beat expectations and U.S. jobless claims fell, bolstering the outlook for the U.S. economy.


S&P 500

rose 0.4% to 1,584.82.

The stock market has gained 35% since the "dark days" of October 2011 when companies were reporting losses and gold appeared poised to double, Martin Leclerc , principal, chief investment officer and portfolio manager of Barrack Yard Advisors in Bryn Mawr, Pa. said in a phone interview.

"Since then, the stock market has become more of a darling but we tend to be skeptical when things look too optimistic," said Leclerc. "The bear market could be hibernating ... we won't know if it's dead until the market smashes through the old bull market high by 30% to 1,700, 1,800 on the

S&P 500.

There needs to be a decisive breakthrough of old highs."

The Labor Department reported that weekly initial jobless claims fell 16,000 to 339,000 in the week ended Apr. 20 and that the four-week moving average looking at longer-term trends decreased 4,500 to 357,500. Continuing claims fell 93,000 to 3 million in the week ended Apr. 13. Economists, on average, expected initial claims of 351,000 and continuing claims of 3.06 million.

Akamai Technologies surged 18% to $42.68 after the Internet content-delivery provider on posted stronger-than-forecast second-quarter guidance. Akamai was upgraded to "overweight" from "neutral" at


after the report.

"It's really a market of stocks right now, not so much a stock market," Leclerc said, adding that big, cash-loaded technology companies with a free-cash-flow yield of 10% look attractive.

Cliffs Natural jumped 15% to $21.01 after the mining company reported better-than-estimated first-quarter earnings Wednesday and hiked its 2013 sales volume expectations to 21 million tons from its previous estimate of 20 million tons driven by increased pellet demand from U.S. customers.

F5 Networks


, added 3.5% to $74.89 after the maker of data-management equipment was boosted to "buy" from "neutral" at


even after the company predicted current-quarter results that were below expectations. Analyst Stuart Jeffrey said "we believe the market may be overstating the competitive risks to F5 currently, given the relatively limited overlap in end markets between F5 and

Citrix Systems Inc


", which fell 7% to $62.95.

The Dow Chemical Company


jumped 5.5% to $33.94 after reporting net income that beat estimates by 8 cents.

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Written by Andrea Tse in New York

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Andrea Tse