Strong earnings from the technology sector and a bigger than expected rise in existing-home sales sent the Dow Jones Industrial Average to a nearly three year high Wednesday.
The Dow rose 186.79 points, or 1.52%, to 12453.54, its highest close since June 5, 2008. Wednesday's climb represented the measure's largest one-day gain since March 3. Intel led the Dow with a jump of $1.55, or 7.8%, to $21.41, after the chip maker posted first-quarter earnings and revenue above analysts' expectations, along with a second quarter revenue outlook that topped Wall Street estimates.
United Technologies was also strong with a gain of 3.54, or 4.3%, to 85.90, as the maker of elevators and airplane engines also posted first-quarter earnings above Wall Street expectations on strong revenue growth and margin expansion.
Earnings from International Business Machines also exceeded expectations, but the technology giant's shares slipped 65 cents, or 0.4%, to 164.75, as the company didn't lift its full-year forecast by as much as some investors had hoped and services signings disappointed.
The Nasdaq Composite jumped 57.54, or 2.10%, to 2802.51, and the Standard & Poor's 500-stock index added 17.74, or 1.35%, to 1330.36. The technology sector led the advance, as the stronger than expected earnings and revenue growth from Intel and IBM boosted sentiment for the quarterly results to come from others in the sector. U.S. economic data also provided a lift after the National Association of Realtors said existing-home sales increased 3.7% in March from February. Economists had expected a smaller increase.
European stocks ended with strong gains Wednesday, with technology companies rising on well received results from Intel Corp., while car makers PSA Peugeot Citroen and Fiat SpA also rallied.
The Stoxx Europe 600 index rose 1.7% to close at 279.06. Technology stocks advanced after results from Intel and Yahoo Inc. both topped expectations. Chip-equipment maker ASML Holding NV soared 5.3% in Amsterdam and Infineon Technologies AG gained 4.3% in Frankfurt.
In Paris, STMicroelectronics NV surged 5% and Alcatel-Lucent SA rose 6.2%. In Paris, shares of Peugeot climbed 4.7% after the car maker reported a 10% rise in first-quarter revenue and affirmed its outlook for the year. Cosmetics giant L'Oreal SA gained 3.2% after its luxury unit helped drive a 9.3% rise in first-quarter sales. The gains boosted the French CAC 40 index, which rose 2.5% to end at 4,004.62.
Auto stocks advanced in Germany, with Daimler AG up 4.2% and Volkswagen AG gaining 4.8%. The German DAX 30 rose 3% to close at 7,249.19.
The U.K.'s FTSE 100 index climbed 2.1% to close at 6,022.26, helped by a 5.6% rise for microchip designer ARM Holdings PLC. Mining and oil stocks made up the bulk of the other strong performers on the index, with Xstrata PLC rising 5.8% after being upgraded to overweight from neutral at J.P. Morgan Cazenove.
The only market that failed to rally in Europe was Greece, where the ASE Composite fell 2.6% to 1,399.69 as debt worries continued to batter stocks. Shares of National Bank of Greece dropped 4.2%.
Most Asian markets posted solid gains after a string of recent losses Wednesday, with technology shares buoyed by strong U.S. earnings reports from Intel and resource stocks climbing on higher commodity prices.
Economic data showing an improvement in U.S. housing starts and Tuesday's recovery on Wall Street and in European markets also helped encourage the advance, easing worries after Standard & Poor's downgrade of its outlook on U.S. credit ratings Monday rattled markets.
Japan's Nikkei Stock Average climbed 1.8% to 9,606.82, South Korea's Kospi jumped 2.2% to 2,169.91, Hong Kong's Hang Seng Index added 1.6% to 23,896.10 and Taiwan's Taiex climbed 2% to 8,813.28, with each of them snapping a losing streak that lasted at least three sessions
China's Shanghai Composite Index rose 0.3% to 3,007.04 and India's Sensex advanced 1.8% to 19,470.98. Shares of heavyweight Samsung Electronics jumped 4.7% and were closely followed by Hynix Semiconductor, which rose 4.6% in Seoul.
In Tokyo, Intel supplier Ibiden tacked on 6%. Inotera Memories climbed 3.8% and Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing added 2.5% in Taipei.
Bucking the sector's rise, Taiwan-listed Acer tumbled 6.9% after the company Tuesday cut its second-quarter personal computer shipment guidance to a 10% on-quarter decline. South Korean stocks were also supported by steelmakers, with Posco rising 2.7% on expectations it will raise prices of major products soon.
Rival Hyundai Steel advanced 2.8%. LG Chem jumped 5.6% after its first-quarter net profit surged 27% on-year. Strength in the resources sector underpinned shares in Hong Kong. Cnooc rose 3% and PetroChina jumped 2.5%, while Aluminum Corp. of China added 2.5%.
Copper closed 2.5% higher on the London Metal Exchange Wednesday, supported by strong equities and a weaker dollar, with further gains expected in coming days as London market players cover short positions ahead of a string of public holidays.
At the PM kerb close, flagship three month copper was 2.5% higher at $9,577 a metric ton, while aluminum was up 0.6% at $2,729/ton, just short of the day's earlier two and a half year high of $2,745/ton. Nickel saw the strongest gains of the session, closing 4.3% higher at $26,395/ton.
Oil futures rose above $111 a barrel Wednesday after a closely watched report showed U.S. oil and fuel product supplies fell sharply last week. Light, sweet crude for June delivery settled up $3.17, or 2.9%, at $111.45 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange.
Brent crude on the ICE futures exchange settled up $2.52, or 2.1%, at $123.85 a barrel. Crude prices rose for a second straight session after the Department of Energy said U.S. oil supplies unexpectedly fell last week, while gasoline supplies tumbled more than expected. Gold futures extended their record-breaking rally, but again settled below the $1,500 level as investors who chose to lock in profits outnumbered new buyers.
The thinly traded April-delivery contract settled at a record $1,498.30 a troy ounce, up $3.80, or 0.3%, on the Comex division of the New York Mercantile Exchange. The contract had set a fresh intraday record of $1,505.30. The most actively traded contract, for June delivery, gained 0.3%, or $3.80, to settle at a record $1,498.90 a troy ounce after touching an intraday record of $1,506.50.