Stocks rose on Thursday as a resurgent appetite for riskier equities fueled a rebound in the financial and technology sectors as investors were tempted back into the market after a recent pullback.

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 percent to $123.04, while the PHLX index climbed 3.8 percent.

Defensive stocks such as consumer staples and healthcare also gave a lift, with Coca-Cola Co up 2.6 percent at $44.76 and Merck & Co Inc adding 1.8 percent to $26.14.

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 69.69 points, or 0.84 percent, to 8,354.58. The Standard & Poor's 500 Index <.SPX> gained 11.82 points, or 1.34 percent, to 895.74. The Nasdaq Composite Index <.IXIC> put on 32.43 points, or 1.95 percent, to 1,696.62.

Financial shares gained, including JPMorgan & Chase & Co , up 3.1 percent to $35.11, and Bank of America Corp up 3.2 percent to $11.36. Bank stocks have been a large part of the recent rally as investors bet that the sector had seen the worst of the credit crisis.

The S&P 500 is up 32 percent from the bear market low on March 9, but down nearly 4 percent for the week as investors reassessed the economic outlook.

Data showed the number of workers filing new claims for jobless benefits rose more than expected in the latest week, pushed up by plant shutdowns related to Chrysler's bankruptcy.

The report came on the heels of Wednesday's figures showing consumers were still reluctant to spend and reviving worries over the length of the recession after optimism that the downturn was showing signs of abating.

United Technologies Corp was among the Dow's top boosts, up 2.1 percent to $51.68, after the company said order rates had stabilized, and it was starting to see early signs of recovery in China.

Wal-Mart Stores Inc reported flat first-quarter earnings in line with analysts' estimates. Its chief executive said overall business was stable, adding that until unemployment eased, it remained cautiously optimistic about a timetable for the economic recovery.

Shares of the world's largest retailer were off 1.8 percent to $49.15.

(Reporting by Leah Schnurr; editing by Jeffrey Benkoe)