Wall Street rallied Thursday after the government's jobless-claims data and Ford's first-quarter results helped reinject some optimism about...

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NEW YORK — Wall Street rallied Thursday after the government’s jobless-claims data and Ford’s first-quarter results helped reinject some optimism about the economy into the market.

The Dow Jones industrial average rose 85.73 to 12,848.95.

Microsoft, one of 30 Dow stocks, added 35 cents to close at $31.80 before announcing an 11 percent loss for its fiscal third quarter. Boeing, also a Dow stock, gained 91 cents to $83.

Broader stock indicators also posted gains. The Standard & Poor’s 500 index rose 8.89 to 1,388.82, and the Nasdaq composite index advanced 23.71 to 2,428.92.

Advancing issues outnumbered decliners by about 2 to 1 on the New York Stock Exchange, where volume came to 1.45 billion shares.

Investors focused on the Labor Department data showing weekly unemployment claims dropped and on Ford’s stronger-than-expected earnings. The news allowed investors to look past the Commerce Department’s report that new-home sales fell in March to the lowest level in more than 16 years, a sign that the housing slump isn’t close to an end.

Investors were also able to set aside any concerns about another drop in factory orders for big-ticket manufactured goods and weak forecasts from Amazon.com and Starbucks. And oil and other commodities prices fell as the dollar rose, also helping to boost stocks.

Sellers held sway early in the session, sending the Dow down nearly 57 points, after the home-sales report. The data appeared to stir concerns that the hangover from the housing bubble would remain an intractable obstacle for the economy.

But as the session wore on, the market righted itself, perhaps because there were no real surprises in the day’s negative news.

John Merrill, chief investment officer at Tanglewood Capital Management in Houston, said investors are seeing confirmation of many of the economic themes that have played out in recent months, with weakness in the financial, homebuilding and automotive sectors and relative strength elsewhere.

“The earnings picture is not so bleak as people though it was going to be,” he said. “There’s been so much talk of the spillover from the credit crunch and homebuilding into the real economy and that just doesn’t seem to have happened.”

But unwelcome news came from the Commerce Department, which said new home sales fell by 8.5 percent in March to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 526,000 units — the slowest pace since October 1991. Also, the median price of a new home showed the sharpest year-over-year decline in nearly four decades.

Moreover, orders to factories for durable goods — items like refrigerators, cars and computers — fell for a third straight month in March. This marks the longest sustained pullback since the 2001 recession.