In other news, the Dow Jones industrial average and the Nasdaq both made gains and computer giant IBM announced it will cut about 5,000 jobs from its U.S. workforce.
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In other news today, Wall Street surged higher again on upbeat earnings and stronger demand for Treasury bonds. The Dow Jones industrial average gained 174 points to close at 7,924. The Nasdaq rose 58 points to close at 1,587.
The price of oil hit a four-month high. It closed above $54 a barrel in New York trading. And the national average cost of gasoline rose to $2 a gallon for the first time since November.
On the jobs front, the Commerce Department reported more than 5.5 million Americans are now on jobless benefits. IBM was reported to be cutting about 5,000 jobs in the U.S., 4 percent of its domestic workforce.
And General Motors announced 7,500 workers will take buyouts. GM and Chrysler have to submit restructuring plans to the government by Tuesday. The president plans to unveil his auto aid plan on that same day.
Senate Democrats advanced their budget blueprint today. Sponsors said it would cover President Obama's top priorities, but with smaller deficits. A House committee OK'd a similar plan yesterday on a party-line vote. And today, the party split continued.
REP. NANCY PELOSI, D-Calif., speaker of the House: A budget that reflects the blueprint for America that President Obama has put forth, it reduces the deficit. It reduces taxes for 95 percent of the American people. It is a job creator in every respect. When it comes to a greener America, clean energy, it creates new green jobs.
REP. MIKE PENCE, R-Ind.:
Instead of making the same kind of sacrifices and hard choices that millions of Americans are making in small businesses and family farms and around kitchen tables, this administration has offered the most fiscally irresponsible budget in American history. More spending, more government, more bailouts is not a prescription for economic recovery. It's a prescription for further economic decline.
House Republicans offered their own budget outline. It called for simplifying the tax code and cutting domestic spending below current levels. The full House and Senate are expected to take up the budget bills next week.
President Obama will announce his new policy for Afghanistan tomorrow. It was widely reported he'll deploy 4,000 more U.S. troops to train Afghan forces. That's in addition to 17,000 combat and support troops being dispatched by the end of summer.
At a Senate hearing, the nominee for ambassador to Afghanistan, Army Lieutenant General Karl Eikenberry, sized up the challenge.
ARMY LT. GEN. KARL EIKENBERRY, U.S. ambassador to Afghanistan-designate: The situation in Afghanistan is increasingly difficult, and time is of the essence. There will be no substitute for more resources and sacrifice. However I believe, with the president's leadership and direction, and with the support of the United States Congress, we can and must foster the conditions for sustained success inside of Afghanistan and Pakistan.
Word of the U.S. plans came as Pakistan denied it's aiding Taliban attacks inside Afghanistan; the Afghan intelligence chief made that charge on Wednesday. And today's New York Times reported Pakistan's spy service is funneling money, military supplies, and strategic plans to Taliban commanders.
In Pakistan, a Taliban suicide bomber killed at least 11 people in the tribal northwest. A number of the victims were members of pro-government militias.
A new car bombing in Baghdad has killed at least 20 Iraqis. The attack came in a Shiite section, near a private hospital and a bus stop. Hospital officials said at least four children were among the dead. It was the sixth major attack this month. Just yesterday, the U.S. military said overall violence has fallen to the lowest levels since the war began.
North Korea now has a long-range rocket in position for an April launch. Newly released photographs of the launch site taken by commercial satellites showed signs of steady progress toward a test-firing. North Korean officials insisted again the rocket will carry a satellite. The U.S. and others said it's designed to test ballistic missile technology.
In Washington, a spokesman for Secretary of State Clinton underscored her warnings.
GORDON DUGUID, spokesman, State Department: A launch of any type of vehicle we would consider to be in violation of U.N. Security Council resolutions and that this provocative type of action would be in violation of those and would not, as the secretary said, go unnoticed.
Envoys from Japan, South Korea, and the U.S. are set to meet in Washington tomorrow to discuss the issue.
The Senate joined the House in voting to triple the size of the AmeriCorps national service program. The bill expands the number of people in the program to 250,000. The cost would be $5.7 billion over five years. It will have to be reconciled with a similar House bill that would cost slightly more.
A federal judge in Washington has sentenced a baseball all-star to a year's probation. Miguel Tejada admitted lying to Congress about the use of steroids in the sport. The Houston Astros shortstop is the first top player convicted of a crime in the steroids scandal.
More bad news in the newspaper industry. The New York Times Company laid off 100 employees in its business operations. It also cut salaries by 5 percent for most employees for the rest of the year. And the Washington Post announced a fourth round of buyouts since 2003. The company did not say how many workers might be affected.