FED FEARS FADE: Stocks rose Thursday after a pair of lackluster economic reports suggested that the U.S. central bank will continue to boost the economy with its stimulus program. Investors had been worried that the Fed would cut back on its $85 billion in monthly bond purchases.
BANKS AND INSURERS: Financial companies led gains in the Standard & Poor's 500 index. Banks and insurers are inexpensive compared to so-called defensive stocks, such as utilities, phone companies and the makers of consumer staples. They also have room to increase their dividends should their profits rise as the economy improves.
BIG LOSS: Big Lots, a discount store chain, fell $3.45, or 9 percent, to $34.93 after the company reported a 21 percent drop in quarterly income and lowered its full-year revenue forecast.