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US markets end higher on Thursday

The US markets ended higher on Thursday as a batch of largely upbeat US data offset economic concerns raised by the Federal Reserve no longer forecasting interest rate hikes this year. The Labor Department released a report showing a bigger than expected drop in initial jobless claims in the week ended March 16th. The report said initial jobless claims dropped to 221,000, a decrease of 9,000 from the previous week's revised level of 230,000. Street had expected jobless claims to dip to 225,000 from the 229,000 originally reported for the previous week. Meanwhile, the Labor Department said the less volatile four-week moving average crept up to 225,000, an increase of 1,000 from the previous week's revised average of 224,000. Meanwhile, after reporting an unexpected contraction in regional manufacturing activity in the previous month, the Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia released a report on Thursday showing its index of manufacturing activity rebounded by much more than anticipated in March. The Philly Fed said its index for current manufacturing activity in the region jumped to a positive 13.7 in March from a negative 4.1 in February, with a positive reading indicating growth. Street had expected the index to rise to a positive 4.5.

Additionally, the Conference Board also released a report showing a slightly bigger than expected increase by its reading on leading US economic indicators. The Conference Board said its leading economic index edged up by 0.2 percent after revised data showed no change in January. Street had expected the index to inch up by 0.1 percent. Besides, support also came in on the back of a rally in the technology sector. Apple (AAPL) posted a standout gain, jumping by 3.7 percent after Needham upgraded its rating on the company's stock to Strong Buy from Buy, citing value upside in Apple's ecosystem.

Dow Jones Industrial Average surged 216.84 points or 0.84 percent to 25962.51, S&P 500 gained 30.65 points or 1.09 percent to 2854.88 and Nasdaq was up 109.99 points or 1.42 percent to 7838.96.

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