Stocks had fallen more than 1 percent Tuesday after a surprise interest rate increase in China, the first time the country had raised rates in nearly three years. That made some traders concerned that slower growth in China might put a drag on the global economy.
Some of those concerns were erased after the Shanghai Composite Index, China's main stock market benchmark, rose slightly in overnight trading. Those gains "helped create a more constructive tone for the trade this morning," said Nick Kalivas, an equity analyst for MF Global.
The fact that China raised interest without leading to a drop in stock prices "was a sign of strength," said Sandy Mehta, the chief investment manager for Value Investment Principals, based in Hong Kong. "Raising rates show that they have confidence in their economy and it continues to grow strongly."
After the bell, West Coast technology companies Netflix Inc. and eBay Inc. reported stronger than expected revenues. Shares of both companies were up more than 6 percent in after-market trading. The strong results could help shift sentiment in favor of technology companies, which took a beating Tuesday after earnings from Apple Inc. and IBM Corp. didn't live up to investors' high expectations.
Every segment within the Standard and Poor index rose, led by a 1.9 percent jump in S&P's index of materials companies, a group that includes aluminum maker Alcoa Inc. and International Paper Co.
The dollar fell 1.2 percent against a broad basket of currencies as demand for safe-haven investments eased.
The Dow Jones industrial average rose 129.35, or 1.2 percent, to 11,107.97. The broader Standard and Poor's 500 index was up 12.27, or 1.1 percent, to 1,178.17, and the technology-focused Nasdaq composite index was up 20.44, or 0.8 percent, to 2,457.39.
A batch of positive corporate earnings reports from companies like Delta Air Lines Inc., American Airlines parent company AMR Corp. and Boeing Co. helped send the stock market broadly higher.
Delta rose 10.8 percent after the company announced a profit driven by a 19 percent jump in passenger revenue. That helped push shares of competitors like Jet Blue and Southwest Airlines up more than 4 percent.
Boeing rose 2.3 percent after the aircraft manufacturer raised its profit forecast for the year and said that it expects to sell more commercial airplanes. Boeing was the top performer among the 30 companies in the Dow, followed closely by Caterpillar Inc. Bank of America, General Electric Co. and Hewlett Packard Co. were the only companies within the Dow index to fall.
Financial companies within the Standard and Poor's index rose 1.1 percent as some traders saw the stocks as a bargain amid questions over how banks have been handling foreclosures. "People are taking advantage of an opportunity to buy on dips," said Bruce Simon, the chief investment officer at Ballentine Partners.
Investors continue to question what the impact will be over reports that the New York Federal Reserve will join institutional bond holders in an effort to force Bank of America Corp. to repurchase billions of dollars in mortgage bonds issued by Countrywide Financial, which BofA purchased in 2008. The North Carolina bank was down 5 cents, or 0.4 percent, to $11.75.
Before the market opened, San Francisco bank Wells Fargo & Co. announced that it beat profit forecasts but missed slightly on revenues, while Morgan Stanley reported a loss of 7 cents per share on special charges. Shares of Morgan Stanley fell 1 cent to $25.38.
Shares of Wells Fargo were up $1.05, or 4.3 percent, at $25.60. Earlier in the day, the stock had traded as low as $23.50.
Late in the afternoon, the Federal Reserve announced that 7 of the bank's 12 regions reported moderate improvements in business activity. Economic growth was slowing in the Dallas and Atlanta regions.
Bond prices traded in a tight range. The yield on the benchmark 10-year Treasury note, which moves opposite its price, fell to 2.48 percent from 2.46 percent late Tuesday.
Shares of Delta rose $1.27 to $12.97, while shares of Boeing rose $2.31 to $71.36. Jet Blue was up 44 cents to $6.95, and Southwest rose 47 cents to $13.16.
Trading on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange came to 1.1 billion shares. Three stocks rose for every one that fell.