RTTNews - After showing a substantial move to the upside over the course of the morning, stocks are posting significant gains in mid-afternoon trading on Tuesday. The major averages continue to advance, fueled by trader speculation that the U.S. consumer is beginning to recover.

The Conference Board released an encouraging report on consumer confidence for May, showing that the group's reading on consumer confidence unexpectedly soared to its highest level since last September.

The data relieved some concern regarding the health of the consumer, whose spending accounts for nearly two-thirds of economic activity in the U.S. The report has helped to generate considerable risk appetite on the day.

Some disappointing economic news came with the release of housing price data for March, which showed a record decline that prompted a lower open in equities. Traders largely shrugged off the data, however, citing the lagging nature of the numbers.

The major averages have been more or less rangebound in recent trading, hovering near their best levels of the day. The Dow is currently up 208.04 at 8,485.36, the Nasdaq is up 58.14 at 1,750.15 and the S&P 500 is up 23.66 at 910.66.

Dow Components

Nearly all of the Dow components are currently in positive territory on the day, contributing to the triple digit gain being shown by the blue chip index.

General Motors (GM) is helping to lead the way higher, rising by 8.4 percent. The move comes despite the likelihood of the auto giant entering bankruptcy within the next seven days. The stock remains near its lowest level since the Great Depression.

Additionally, AT&T (T) is offsetting some of its recent losses, climbing by 3.3 percent on the session. With the advance, the stock is moving further away from a two month low posted late last week.

Shares of JP Morgan Chase (JPM), American Express (AXP) and Alcoa (AA) have also shown strong upward moves. Further, McDonald's (MCD) continues to soar, jumping by 2.9 percent to reach a fresh 3-month high.

On the other hand, Coca-Cola (KO) is currently the only Dow component in negative territory, with the beverage giant down 0.3 percent. The modest loss by Coca-Cola comes after it ended Friday's trading at a seven-month closing high.

Sector News

Most of the major sectors continue to show notable gains in mid-afternoon trading, helping the major averages to sustain a considerable rally.

Commercial real estate stocks are extending their gains in recent trading, with the Morgan Stanley Real Estate Index climbing by 6.1 percent. However, the index remains stuck in a recent trading range.

Further, transportation stocks have emerged as some of the day's strongest performers, with the Dow Jones Transportation Average currently up 4 percent. Among transportation socks, Con-Way (CNW) is up 7.4 percent, poised to end the session at their best closing level since November.

Computer hardware, banking and housing stocks also continue to advance, while gold stocks remain among the few groups that are bucking the uptrend. The losses by gold stocks come in tandem with a drop in the price of the precious metal.

In Focus: Economic Data, General Motors, Obama Supreme Court Nomination

On the economic front, consumer confidence showed a substantial improvement in the month of May. A report from the Conference Board showed that the consumer confidence index rose to its highest level in eight months.

The consumer confidence index rose to 54.9 in May from an upwardly revised 40.8 in April. Economists had expected the index to edge up to 42.6 from the 39.2 originally reported for the previous month.

Meanwhile, a report released by Standard & Poor's showed that home prices continued to show record declines in the first quarter, with the data suggesting that the recent signs of stabilization in the housing market have not yet led to a turnaround in prices.

The data showed that the S&P/Case-Shiller U.S. National Home Price Index fell 19.1 percent in the first quarter compared to the same quarter a year ago. The decrease marked the steepest decline in the series' 21-year history.

S&P added that the 20-City Composite Home Price Index fell at an annual rate of 18.7 percent in March compared to economist estimates of an 18.4 percent decline. The 10-City Composite Home Price Index for March was down 18.6 percent year-over-year.

In other news, President Barack Obama officially named Judge Sonia Sotomayor as his nominee for Supreme Court Justice late this morning. If confirmed, Sotomayor would become only the third woman to serve on the court and the first Hispanic.

Sotomayor, 54, currently serves on the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit.

She is nominated to replace retiring Supreme Court Justice David Souter, who is known for his moderate views. So, if confirmed, Sotomayor is not expected to shift the ideological balance of the court.

Other Markets

In overseas trading, stock markets across the Asia-Pacific region finished mostly lower on Tuesday. Japan's benchmark Nikkei 225 Index slipped by 0.4 percent and Hong Kong's Hang Seng Index fell 0.8 percent.

Meanwhile, the major European markets closed notably higher after seeing some earlier weakness. The U.K.'s FTSE 100 Index closed up 1.1 percent, while the French CAC 40 Index and the German DAX are finished up by 1.1 percent and 1.3 percent, respectively.

In the bond markets, treasuries are currently showing moderate weakness after giving up their early gains on the heels of the consumer confidence data. Subsequently, the yield on the benchmark ten-year note is currently up 4.3 basis points at 3.491 percent.

For comments and feedback: contact editorial@rttnews.com