Updated from 4:05 p.m. EST

Stocks ended on a high note Thursday, as a better-than-expected manufacturing report and encouraging unemployment figures outweighed more disappointing economic data.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average closed up 65 points, or 0.8%, at 8713, while the Nasdaq rose 16 points, or 1.1%, to 1551. The S&P 500 gained 7 points, or 0.8%, to 947.

"There's a lot of cash on the sidelines being deployed," said Jay Suskind, head of institutional equity trading at Ryan Beck & Co. "I think people are really fearful of missing a major move up."

Suskind said there is also a lot of optimism about an economic recovery in the second half of the year, although he admitted that recent data have been miserable. "Fundamentally, this market is fully priced, but technically, it still reads well," he said.

Larry Wachtel, a market analyst at Prudential Securities, noted that NYSE gainers have outpaced losers in 33 of the past 46 sessions, and that in early May, more than 90% of the 1,500 largest, most actively traded stocks on the three major exchanges rose above their 50-day moving average. That hasn't happened since after the last Gulf war in February 1991. Earlier this year, he said, fewer than 10% of stocks were above their 50-day moving average.

While most of the economic data were negative Thursday, bulls chose to key in on the latest unemployment benefit claims, which came in at 417,000, down 13,000 from the previous week and lower than the Wall Street consensus of 430,000. The four-week moving average, which smoothes out weekly fluctuations, declined 7,500 to 439,750.

Optimists were also happy that manufacturing conditions in New York seem to be improving, at least according to the latest survey from the New York Federal Reserve. The Fed's Empire State index rose to a positive 10.6 in May from a negative 20.2 in the prior month. Expectations were for a negative reading of 7.8.

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