Stocks rose on Thursday as a recent pullback fueled buying of technology and financial shares on bets that equities may extend the run-up from early March.

Investors scooped up technology bellwethers the day after the PHLX Semiconductor index <.SOXX> fell for a fifth straight day. Apple Inc was among the top boosts on Nasdaq, rising 3.1 percent to $123.12 and recouping most of its Wednesday decline. The PHLX index climbed 3.7 percent.

Defensive stocks such as consumer staples and healthcare also gave the market a lift, underscoring some of the lingering worry about the economy following news of a jump in weekly jobless claims.

Coca-Cola Co was the Dow's biggest boost, up 3.1 percent at $44.99, while Merck & Co Inc added 1.4 percent to $26.04.

Banks led financials, which this week have been buffeted by bouts of profit-taking.

JPMorgan shares rose 3.6 percent to $35.28, while the KBW bank index <.BKX> shot up 3.8 percent.

The surge in U.S. markets over the past two months has made investors who missed the rally anxious to get back into stocks, analysts said.

Investors were not afraid to miss the first 10 percent of the market move up because they were more worried about the market moving lower, said Dick Del Bello, senior partner at Conifer Securities in New York.

But there's an enormous amount of cash sitting on the sidelines, and that's not doing anybody any good. Managers today feel they have to participate.

The Dow Jones industrial average <.DJI> rose 71.04 points, or 0.86 percent, to 8,355.93. The Standard & Poor's 500 Index <.SPX> gained 11.35 points, or 1.28 percent, to 895.27. The Nasdaq Composite Index <.IXIC> shot up 30.90 points, or 1.86 percent, to 1,695.09.

United Technologies Corp , the diversified manufacturer whose products include elevators and air conditioners, also featured among the Dow's standouts. Its shares rose 2.2 percent to $51.77, after the company said order rates had stabilized and it was starting to see early signs of recovery in China.

Even so, trading was light across the board, with volume on both the New York Stock Exchange and on Nasdaq on track for one of the lightest sessions in more than a week. Light volume is considered a less bullish signal and a possible indication of a lack of broad conviction.

(Reporting by Ellis Mnyandu and Leah Schnurr; Editing by Leslie Adler)