By CHIP CUTTER
AP Business Writer
NEW YORK (AP) - Stocks are rising sharply after applications for unemployment benefits fell to a five-month low and the government raised its estimate of U.S. economic growth.
Germany also voted to expand the powers of Europe's bailout fund, reassuring investors that lawmakers were working to get that region's debt crisis under control. Banks, which would have the most to lose if the crisis gets worse, rose more than the rest of the market.
The Dow Jones industrial average is up 178 points, or 1.6 percent, at 11,189 shortly before noon Eastern Thursday. JPMorgan Chase is up 3.6 percent, the most in the Dow.
The Standard & Poor's 500 index is up 14, 1.2 percent, at 1,164. The Nasdaq composite index is up 7, or 0.3 percent, at 2,499.