Reassurance from the chief executive of Goldman Sachs Group Inc that the investment bank does not face big credit losses helped ignite a rally in financial stocks, easing some worries about the breadth of the credit crisis.
Retailers also caught fire when surprisingly strong earnings from Wal-Mart Stores Inc and another big drop in oil prices eased worry about consumer spending on the doorstep of the holiday shopping season. U.S. oil futures ended below $92 a barrel.
The story of the day, though, was clearly the rebound in technology after a four-day drubbing that drove the Nasdaq down more than 8 percent. In addition to Apple, an upbeat outlook from Corning Inc which makes glass for flat-screen televisions, also contributed to the turnaround in tech stocks.
Apple jumped 10.5 percent, the most in 14 months, while Corning climbed 10 percent, the most in 10 months. Goldman surged 8.5 percent, the most in 6-1/2 years, and Wal-Mart shot up 6.1 percent, the most in five years.
The Dow Jones industrial average surged 319.54 points, or 2.46 percent, to close at 13,307.09. The Standard & Poor's 500 Index gained 41.87 points, or 2.91 percent, to end at 1,481.05. The Nasdaq Composite Index shot up 89.52 points, or 3.46 percent, to finish at 2,673.65.
The session's advance marked the Dow's and the S&P 500's biggest climb since September 18, when the Federal Reserve cut interest rates by a larger-than-expected 50 basis points.
In the last hour of trading, stocks also got a boost from a report that showed a surprising rise in September pending home sales.