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Stocks finish day stronger on U.S. data

Stocks shot out of the gate at the opening bell and finished higher amid strong U.S economic data released this morning.

Stocks shot out of the gate at the opening bell and finished higher amid strong U.S economic data released this morning.

Both the Dow Jones Industrial Average and the Nasdaq Composite Index rallied after yesterday's late-afternoon plunge. The blue chip index rose 136.46 points or 1.54 percent to close at 9,016.143, while the technology-heavy Nasdaq surged 47.25 points or 2.43 percent to 2,001.58.

The Labor Department released data showing that November non-farm payrolls jumped by 267,000, surpassing expected gains of 158,000. The unemployment rate is now down to 4.4 percent from 4.6 percent.

Most analysts agree that the employment figures raise hope that corporate earnings will remain healthy for the coming quarter.

"All in all, things look good for the moment, but you have to look over your shoulder with all the layoffs announced by Boeing and Exxon," said Norma Yaeger, president of Yaeger Capital Markets. "I think Boeing is just the tip of the iceberg."

Earlier this week, airplane maker Boeing announced it would cut 48,000 jobs; oil company Exxon plans to cut about 9,000 jobs after merging with Mobil; and drug-maker Johnson & Johnson plans to cut about 4,100 jobs.

Shares of online auctioneer Ubid surged 220 percent on their first day of trading. The stock jumped 33 points to close at 48.

Yesterday, stocks closed lower as investors grew nervous about developments in the Brazilian economy, bringing to a halt a strong technology rally that had pushed the Nasdaq index higher most of the day.

But today in early trading, eight of the ten top movers on both the Nasdaq and the New York Stock Exchange headed higher.

Intel surged 6.22 percent, while Microsoft climbed 4.2 percent. Online computer products retailer Egghead.com, which had been slipping after its blazing skyward trajectory last week, turned around in early trading and soared 10.89 percent.

Web portals Yahoo, Excite, and Lycos posted strong gains, rising 3.47 percent, 3.3 percent, and 7.55 percent, respectively. America Online climbed 4.93 percent

Compaq Computer got a boost after influential investment bank Merrill Lynch analyst Steve Milunovich said the company was on track to meet its fourth-quarter earnings estimate of 35 cents per share. The consensus of analysts polled by First Call expect the company to earn 36 cents per share in the fourth quarter. Compaq stock jumped 6.19 percent and was the most actively traded issue on the NYSE today, with 24.4 million shares changing hands.

The computer maker's main rival, Dell Computer, also pushed higher, up 3.33 percent.