The Nasdaq composite index rose 16.52 points, or 1.05 percent, to 1,597.33, after being up all day. The Dow Jones industrial average fell 62.90 points, or 0.69 percent, to 9,060.88.
The Labor Department's weekly report on unemployment, released earlier in the day, painted a grim picture of layoffs. Jobless claims rose much more than expected, to 528,000 from a revised 457,000 in the previous week. That's the highest the number has been since 1992. The leap was largely a result of the Sept. 11 attacks, which caused huge layoffs in travel and tourism, the Labor Department said.
In other economic news, factory orders were unchanged in August, beating expectations of a 0.4 percent drop.
Dell was the Nasdaq's most actively traded stock, up $1.68, or 8 percent, to $22.32. The PC maker's statement that it would meet third-quarter estimates was a surprise to analysts, who had expected the company to warn.
The news inspired gains across the PC and technology sectors. CNET's PC Hardware index was up around 3 percent.
Cisco Systems' shares continued to gain on Wednesday's news that the company's current quarter is on track. Shares rose 47 cents to $14.42.
The storage sector also gained ground, with CNET's Storage index up around 6 percent. Storage behemoth EMC was the most actively traded stock on the New York Stock Exchange, up 59 cents, or 5 percent, to $12.50.
Juniper Networks was also up sharply, gaining $1.27, or 11 percent, to $13.27 after an upgrade from Morgan Stanley.
Shares of Nextel Communications and Motorola gained after their announcement of a cost-saving move to upgrade Nextel Communications' current network rather than outlaying its new one. Nextel also said Wednesday that it's on track to meet its 2001 domestic operating cash-flow target of $1.9 billion. Nextel was up $1.80 to $9.16, and Motorola rose 54 cents to $15.89.
Among other actively traded bellwethers, Intel rose 32 cents to $21.55; Sun Microsystems rose 29 cents, or 3 percent, to $9.29; Oracle rose 13 cents to $13.79, and Microsoft rose 21 cents to $56.44.
AOL Time Warner fell 21 cents to $34.10. Yahoo rose 77 cents to $10.68, and Amazon.com was up 28 cents to $7.04.
Staff and Reuters contributed to this report.