American International Group Inc jumped 6.6 percent to $26.40 after Britain's Prudential Plc agreed to buy its AIA Group insurance arm for $35.5 billion.
Also adding to share gains were signs that Athens might be nearing a deal with European Union governments to take more budget steps in exchange for some form of emergency aid for Greece. U.S.-listed shares of National Bank of Greece rose 2.3 percent to $3.95.
A deal with Greece would remove a lot of the uncertainty about the region, and hopefully stop the spread of concern to other countries in the EU, said John Massey, portfolio manager at SunAmerica Asset Management in Jersey City, New Jersey.
Data from the Institute for Supply Management showed the U.S. manufacturing sector grew in February, though the index read 56.5, a slower rate than the expected Reuters forecast of 57.5.
Earlier, government data showed U.S. consumer spending increased slightly faster than expected in January as consumers dipped into their savings amid a small rise in incomes.
The Dow Jones industrial average <.DJI> rose 69.91 points, or 0.68 percent, to 10,395.25. The Standard & Poor's 500 Index <.SPX> gained 9.03 points, or 0.82 percent, to 1,113.52. The Nasdaq Composite Index <.IXIC> jumped 28.54 points, or 1.28 percent, to 2,266.82.
On Monday, Millipore Corp surged 11 percent to $104.94 a day after Germany's Merck KGaA agreed to buy it for about $6 billion in cash.
The NYSE Arca Biotech index <.BTK> jumped 5.3 percent, led by OSI Pharmaceuticals Inc , which advanced 53 percent to $56.47 after Japan's Astellas Pharma Inc <4503.T> launched a $3.5 billion hostile bid for the company.
All this M&A activity shows that people think the worst is over, Massey said. It's a sign that management teams have confidence in their balance sheets and where the economy is.
SanDisk Corp climbed 8.6 percent to $31.67 after the flash memory maker raised its revenue forecast for the first quarter late Friday and said the outlook for the industry in the coming years is strong.
The PHLX Semiconductor index <.SOXX> added 3.0 percent.
(Editing by Padraic Cassidy)