Stocks rallied on Monday as better-than-expected results from the No. 2 U.S. home improvement retailer, Lowe's Cos Inc
Investors' optimism extended to sectors closely aligned with economic growth, including homebuilders, banks, energy companies and retailers. Positive broker comments on Bank of America Corp
Shares of Lowe's rose 8.1 percent to $19.94 after the company raised its full-year forecast due to signs that the housing market's decline may be ebbing. Lowe's Chief Executive Robert Niblock said consumer confidence has improved in recent weeks, and housing turnover is showing signs of a bottom.
That optimism helped lift shares of Lowe's top rival Home Depot Inc
Lowe's numbers come at a time when the market is looking to rebound, said Steve Goldman, market strategist at Weeden & Co in Greenwich, Connecticut. It does show that consumer spending in general has been a bit stronger than many had anticipated.
The Dow Jones industrial average <.DJI> gained 235.44 points, or 2.85 percent, to 8,504.08. The Standard & Poor's 500 Index <.SPX> rose 26.83 points, or 3.04 percent, to 909.71. The Nasdaq Composite Index <.IXIC> advanced 52.22 points, or 3.11 percent, to 1,732.36.
The S&P 500 recently climbed from a 12-year closing low on March 9, rising 37.4 percent through the close on May 8. But after the benchmark index gave up some ground last week amid concerns about the economy and a flurry of secondary stock offerings, the S&P 500 was up 34.5 percent from that low at Monday's close.
The S&P also moved back above 900, which some investors see as a key psychological level. The S&P closed above 900 in early May for the first time since the start of the year, but fell back into the 800s last week.
The Chicago Board Options Exchange Volatility Index, WallStreet's favorite barometer of investor fear, fell 8.7 percent to settle just above 30, a key psychological level. At 30.24, the VIX closed at its lowest level in more than eight months.
Lowe's quarterly numbers also served as a fresh catalyst for investors eager to sustain the market's rally and offered a sharp contrast to last week's disappointing April retail sales data.
Investors watch retail sales closely because consumer spending accounts for two-thirds of U.S. economic activity.
The Dow Jones U.S. home construction index <.DJUSHB> jumped 7.4 percent, helped by Citigroup's upgrade of Lennar Corp
In broker research news, Goldman raised its recommendation on Bank of America's stock to buy. Separately, Citigroup said it now expects Bank of America will report a second-quarter profit instead of a loss.
The surge of Bank of America's stock rippled throughout the bank sector, driving the KBW Bank index <.BKX> up 7.5 percent.
Shares of Exxon Mobil Corp
Among the Nasdaq's major advancers, chipmaker Qualcomm Inc
Shares of International Business Machines
Trading was moderate on the New York Stock Exchange, with about 1.42 billion shares changing hands, below last year's estimated daily average of 1.49 billion, while on Nasdaq, about 2.02 billion shares traded, below last year's daily average of 2.28 billion.
Advancing stocks outnumbered declining ones on the NYSE by 2,722 to 361 while on the Nasdaq, there were 2,158 advancers and 543 decliners.
(Editing by Jan Paschal)