Updated with closing stock prices.

NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- Stock market gains were nearly halved in the final hour of trading Thursday, but it was still a decent day at the office. It's the power of people getting off the fence, said one market observer as the major indices rose to levels not seen in months earlier in the session.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 83.74 points, or 0.9%, to 9154.46, and the S&P 500 tacked on 11.6 points, or 1.2%, to 986.75. The Nasdaq Composite gained 16.54 points, or 0.8%, to 1984.3.

Helping stocks along were a General Electric ( GE) upgrade, improved jobless claims and more earnings.

But President Obama said late in the day that second quarter GDP figures due out Friday would indicate a contraction and that job losses remained a "huge" problem, taking some steam out of the day's rally.

After a mixed close on Tuesday and mild losses on Wednesday, market watchers were beginning to wonder if "less bad" economic data and better-than-expected but still-not-exactly-good earnings were enough to maintain the energy that drove stocks higher in July. But the bulls came back refreshed early Thursday.

"When it's a pullback, we say it's gone too far too fast, and when it's a rally, we say it's a buying opportunity. But the truth is there are so many skeptics on the sideline, and with each passing day, those skeptics give up, throw in the towel and come into the market," says Hugh Johnson, CIO of Illington Johnson Advisers. "It's just the force of fence-sitters in the early stages of a bull market."

Helping some sitters off the fence, GE shares gained 7% to $13.12 after Goldman Sachs upgraded the stock to buy and raised its price target on a decreased likelihood that it will have to separate from its GE Capital business.

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