NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- Stocks stormed higher Thursday as optimism about a soft landing for China and stimulus-friendly commentary from Fed officials brought out the buyers. The Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 181.19 points, or 1.41%, to 12,986.58. The S&P 500 increased 18.86 points to 1,387.57 and the Nasdaq Composite gained 39.09 points to 3,055.55. Breadth within the Dow was positive with 26 of the index's 30 components posting gains. The biggest gainers in the index Thursday were Hewlett-Packard ( HPQ), Caterpillar ( CAT) and Bank of America ( BAC).
Shares of Hewlett-Packard gained 7.18% to $25.09. Personal computer shipments unexpectedly rose 1.9% in the first quarter from last year, according to research firm Gartner. TheStreet Ratings gives HP a C+ grade and hold rating. Caterpillar shares rose 4.61% to $106.44. The mining and construction equipment company sold part of its Bucyrus business to one of its Australian dealers for about $400 million, according to the Chicago Tribune. Caterpillar gets an A grade from TheStreet Ratings with a buy rating and $122.28 price target. Shares of Bank of America increased 3.5% to $9.1. In the news Thursday, Bank of America has lowered the number of divisions it gives information on to investors. TheStreet Ratings gives Bank of America a C- grade and hold rating. The decliners among the blue chips were McDonald's ( MCD), Merck ( MRK), Pfizer ( PFE) and Procter & Gamble ( PG). McDonald's was the biggest laggard of the bunch but none of the stocks had losses of more than 1% in trading Thursday. -- Written by Alexandra Zendrian in New York. >To contact the writer of this article, click here: Alexandra Zendrian >To submit a news tip, send an email to: firstname.lastname@example.org. >To follow the writer on Twitter, go to Alexandra Zendrian.