By MATTHEW CRAFT, Associated Press
NEW YORK (AP) — An early charge on Wall Street Wednesday put the Dow Jones industrial average on track for a second day of gains, something that hasn't happened since late April.
The gains turned the Dow average positive for the year following a dismal stretch in May.
The Dow was up 206 points at 12,333 a half hour before noon. That's an increase of 1.7 percent. All 30 Dow stocks were higher, led by Bank of America, up 7.8 percent. The last time the Dow closed up more than 200 points was March 13.
The big one-day jump follows weeks of losses, including a 275-point plunge last Friday caused by a surprisingly weak report on the U.S. job market. Stock indexes can't fall every single day, said Jim Russell, chief equity strategist at U.S. Bank Wealth Management in Cinncinnati, Ohio.
"In market language, it's called a technical bounce," he said. "It's consistent with a 'relief rally.' There's no bad news today, so the market goes up. Frankly, it's that simple."
The Standard & Poor's 500 index rose 22 points to 1,307. The Nasdaq composite rose 53 points to 2,831.
The gains were broad. Just 16 of the S&P 500 companies were lower, and every sector in the S&P index rose. More than eight stocks rose for every one that fell on the New York Stock Exchange.
The dollar fell and Treasury yields rose as investors moved money out of defensive investments. The yield on the benchmark rose to 1.63 percent from 1.57 percent late Tuesday.
U.S. markets followed major European indexes higher as speculation rose that European politicians will take steps to ease the region's debt crisis soon. Britain's benchmark stock index rose 2.2 percent, France's rose 2.4 percent. Borrowing costs eased for Spain, another positive sign.
The European Central Bank left its benchmark lending rate unchanged on Wednesday. The central bank has been urged to cut rates to alleviate pressure on Europe's weakened banks and governments, but bank President Mario Draghi has said the bank cannot make up for inaction by governments.
Among stocks making big moves:
— Morgan Stanley jumped 6 percent amid reports that the Blackstone Group and other private equity firms may try to buy a stake in the bank's commodities business.
— UnitedHealth Group gained 2 percent after the health insurer said it will raise its quarterly dividend from 16 cents to 21 cents per share . The board also approved a plan to buy back stock.
— Tempur-Pedic International plunged 47 percent. The mattress maker said it expects quarterly profits to fall by half compared to last year. Tempur-Pedic blamed its competitors' aggressive marketing campaigns and promotions for hurting its sales.
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