Stocks rose sharply after a German court backed the country's role in bailing out other European nations. The Dow Jones industrial average jumped 200 points in the first hour of trading and continued to climb throughout the day, ending up 275 points. The afternoon gains came after Italy's Senate approved a deficit-cutting package and the Federal Reserve reported that U.S. business conditions are improving.
Traders were also speculating that President Barack Obama would announce a $300 billion jobs package made up of tax cuts, state aid and infrastructure spending in an address to Congress on Thursday night.
The Dow and other U.S. indexes fell over the previous three days on worries over weakness in the U.S. job market and concerns that Europe's debt woes could lead to a global economic recession.
"The market has been pricing in an out-and-out recession, so any hints that policy issues might be solved is a plus," said Brian Gendreau, market strategist at Cetera Financial Group
The Dow surged 275.56 points, or 2.5 percent, to close at 11,414.86. All 30 stocks in the Dow average rose.
The Standard and Poor's 500 index jumped 33.38, or 2.9 percent, to 1,198.62. All 10 company groups that make up the S&P index rose. The Nasdaq composite shot up 75.11, or 3 percent, to 2,548.94.
The German court ruling also pushed the prices of Treasury securities lower as investors were more willing to hold risky assets like stocks. Treasury prices have been rising over the past week, sending their yields lower, as demand for lower-risk investments increased.
The yield on the 10-year Treasury note rose to 2.05 percent. Its price fell 50 cents per $100 invested.
The yield traded at 1.97 percent late Tuesday. On Monday it fell to 1.91 percent, the lowest since the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis began keeping daily records in 1962. Gold, another traditional safe haven, fell $56, or 3 percent, to $1,817 an ounce. It closed at $1,891 on Aug. 22.
Historically low Treasury rates are prompting some institutional investors to see stocks as a better value. The yield on the benchmark 10-year Treasury note began plunging from just over 3 percent on July 27 to 2.2 percent by the end of August. Investors were piling into lower-risk assets as the stock market swung wildly. The yield has hovered around 2 percent this week. An investor who buys the S&P 500 index, meanwhile, earns a 2.38 percent yield in the form of dividends.
"Market sentiment has actually been worse than economic data lately, and now you are seeing institutional investors saying, `I can get a better yield from the S&P 500 than I can from a 10-year Treasury'," said Howard Ward, portfolio manager of the GAMCO Growth Fund.
Yahoo and Bank of America rose sharply after announcing the departures of key executives after the market closed Tuesday. Yahoo gained 5 percent, to $13.61, after announcing that CEO Carol Bartz had been fired. Some analysts said the move made the company a takeover target. Bartz spent nearly three years steering the company.
Bank of America jumped 7 percent, to $7.48, after the bank announced a management reorganization that will result in two top officers leaving. The changes were seen as one of chief executive Brian Moynihan's most dramatic moves to reshape the embattled bank. Bank of America shares have fallen 48 percent this year through Tuesday, compared with a 7 percent drop in the S&P 500 index.
Financial companies were the top performing group in the S&P 500 index. JP Morgan Chase & Co., Goldman Sachs and Wells Fargo each rose more than 3 percent.
Urban Outfitters fell 2 percent, to $25.26, after the retailer said its sales were slipping in the current quarter. Computer graphics company Nvidia Corp. jumped 8 percent, to $14.25, after the company said it expects its revenues to be higher than Wall Street analysts forecast.
A Federal Reserve survey found that that the economy grew modestly in its 12 bank regions in July and August as consumers spent more.
Nine stocks rose for every one that fell on the New York Stock Exchange. Volume was below average at 3.9 billion shares.