A rebound in commodity prices lifted energy and materials shares on Wednesday, while strong earnings from Dell Inc helped the technology sector as Wall Street found some respite from its recent slide.
U.S. crude oil futures rose more than 3 percent to settle back above $100 a barrel as crude inventories unexpectedly fell. Chevron Corp rose 2.2 percent to $102.61, giving the Dow one of its biggest lifts.
Dell's shares jumped 5.7 percent to $16.81 after the PC manufacturer reported profits late on Tuesday that exceeded expectations. The company also raised its fiscal 2012 outlook for operating income.
The rally has been led by the raw materials, which is linked to a rebound in some of the commodity prices, said Nick Kalivas, an analyst at MF Global in Chicago. The earnings were strong and breathed some life back into technology.
Also in the tech sector, microchip maker Analog Devices Inc posted quarterly profit that topped market expectations, sending its shares up 5.5 percent to $42.46.
The Dow Jones industrial average <.DJI> rose 70.31 points, or 0.56 percent, to 12,549.89. The Standard & Poor's 500 Index <.SPX> gained 10.01 points, or 0.75 percent, to 1,338.99. The Nasdaq Composite Index <.IXIC> added 29.75 points, or 1.07 percent, to 2,812.96.
Helping transportation stocks, U.S. railroad operator CSX Corp said it is targeting double-digit growth in earnings per share and operating income through 2015, expecting growth that outpaces the economy.
CSX shares rose 1.9 percent to $75.21. The Dow Jones Transportation Average<.DJT> gained 1.6 percent.
Most Federal Reserve officials prefer to raise benchmark interest rates before selling assets when the time comes to tighten policy, minutes of their April meeting showed on Wednesday.
Exxon Mobil Corp advanced 1.5 percent to $81.60. The PHLX oil service sector index <.OSX> climbed 2.2 percent. The S&P energy index <.GSPE> added 1.7 percent and shared the spotlight with materials as the S&P 500's top-performing sectors.
The S&P materials index <.GSPM> also gained 1.7 percent, boosted by mining company Freeport-McMoRan Copper & Gold , up 3.8 percent at $48.61.
The Reuters/Jefferies CRB index <.CRB>, a broad measure of commodity performance, rose 2.3 percent. Before Wednesday's advance, the CRB index was down more than 9 percent for the month.
Recent soft economic data has put investors on the defensive, increasing uneasiness about the recovery's strength and sending the benchmark S&P 500 down 2.1 percent for the month. Data on Tuesday showed weakness in factory output and housing starts.
Staples Inc's shares tumbled 15.4 percent to $16.63 and ranked as the biggest drag on the S&P 500 after the office supply retailer slashed its full-year outlook on weak demand and higher costs.
Through Wednesday, 471 of the S&P 500 companies have reported earnings, with 69 percent posting results that beat Wall Street's estimates, according to Thomson Reuters data.
(Editing by Jan Paschal)