U.S. stocks rose on Wednesday after a private-sector reading on the labor market signaled unemployment may be receding and leaked bank stress test results suggested most banks are healthier than previously thought.
The number of U.S. private sector job losses in April touched the lowest level since November, according to a report by ADP Employer Services, the latest data suggesting the worst of the recession may have passed.
The government is due to release stress test results on Thursday. Several reports on the capital needs for 10 of the 19 banks under the government's microscope have revealed how well the industry will cope with perhaps the most severe recession since World War Two.
The rally in bank stocks was widespread, with Citigroup
Concerns about the health of the banks were among the factors that pushed the market to 12-year lows in early March when many thought the government might be forced to nationalize several big banks.
In my mind, at least, it just means we're getting that much closer to a resolution, said Phil Orlando, chief equity market strategist at Federated Investors in New York.
What this does is that it begins to give investors some clarity that we are starting to separate the wheat from the chaff. We know who's performing well and is potentially able to (repay government bailout funds) and who still needs a little bit of help and a little more restructuring, he said.
If three-fourths or even half of the banks pass the test, then the government can focus on the few remaining banks that need federal help, Orlando added.
The Dow Jones industrial average <.DJI> rose 101.63 points, or 1.21 percent, to 8,512.28. The Standard & Poor's 500 Index <.SPX> climbed 15.73 points, or 1.74 percent, to 919.53. The Nasdaq Composite Index <.IXIC> added 4.98 points, or 0.28 percent, to 1,759.10.
Since hitting a closing low in early March, the S&P 500 has surged 36 percent, driven by optimism about the financial system's condition and hopes the recession may be waning.
The S&P 500, however, is still down more than 41 percent since its all-time high of 1,576.09 set on October 11, 2007.
The KBW Bank index <.BKX> shot up 11.5 percent, while the S&P financial index <.GSPF> climbed 8.1 percent.
The test results will cover 19 major U.S. financial institutions. The Wall Street Journal reported that JPMorgan, the No. 2 U.S. bank, does not need more capital under the U.S. government stress test.
Other news reports suggested the capital shortfalls for Citigroup and others might be less than expected.
The broader market also got a boost from energy shares, which reacted to higher oil prices. U.S. crude soared $2.50, or 4.64 percent, to settle at $56.34 a barrel, the highest close since November 14, 2008.
Among energy shares, Exxon Mobil
On Nasdaq, Research In Motion
After the bell, network equipment maker Cisco Systems Inc
The stock had ended in the regular session at $19.61.
Walt Disney Co
The ADP data fueled more hopes that the U.S. economy has seen the worst, coming two days before the government's release of the April nonfarm payrolls report.
Trading volume was active on the New York Stock Exchange, with about 1.87 billion shares changing hands, above last year's estimated daily average volume of 1.49 billion, while on Nasdaq, about 3.01 billion shares traded, also above last year's daily average of 2.28 billion.
Advancing stocks outnumbered declining ones by a ratio of more than 7 to 3 on the NYSE, and by a ratio of about 5 to 4 on Nasdaq.