Stocks hit gas as housing data firm

NEW YORK - U.S. stocks saw their biggest gain since March, led by banks and the technology sector.

The Dow Jones industrial average rose 213 points, or 1.2 percent, to close at 17,706. The Standard & Poor's 500 index gained 28 points, or 1.4 percent, to 2,076. The Nasdaq composite index surged 95 points, or 2 percent, to 4,861.

Microsoft climbed 3 percent Tuesday and Google parent Alphabet added 2 percent. Among banks, JPMorgan Chase gained almost 2 percent. A move higher in long-term interest rates had investors hoping that banks could make more money from loans.

"It's been a rough month on the market. Stocks were mixed last week after a four-week-long string of losses. "It's almost like a rubber band. When things get too stretched they snap back," said David Lefkowitz, senior equity strategist at UBS Wealth Management. "A little bit of good data has reminded people that things are actually OK."

Americans ramped up their purchases of new homes in April to the highest level since January 2008, evidence of a strong start to the spring buying season. The Commerce Department said Tuesday that new home sales jumped 16.6 percent last month to a seasonally adjusted rate of 619,000, up from a revised total of 531,000 in March.

Agribusiness giant Monsanto rejected an offer from German conglomerate Bayer worth $62 billion, or $122 per share. However Monsanto said it's open to talks with Bayer about a possible sale. The stock rose $2.85, or 2.7 percent, to $108.85.

Streaming video company Netflix jumped after it said it struck deal with Disney. Starting in September, Netflix will have exclusive U.S. rights to new movies from Disney, Marvel, Lucasfilm and Pixar. Netflix stock jumped $3.56, or 3.8 percent, to $98.45.

Fertilizer maker CF Industries ended a deal to buy OCI's distribution networks for about $8 billion. CF planned to reincorporate in the U.K. as part of the deal, which would have reduced its tax bill, but the company said new Treasury Department rules made the combination less appealing. CF Industries will pay OCI $150 million for calling off the deal. CF Industries stock shed $2.03, or 6.8 percent, to $27.82.

Home builder Toll Brothers reported better first-quarter results than analysts expected, and the company raised its annual projections for home prices and sales. Nationwide home sales also rose to their highest level in eight years. The stock gained $1.60, or 5.9 percent, to $28.70.

Electronics retailer Best Buy said its quarterly sales kept falling and its outlook was weak. That made Best Buy the latest retailer to disclose disappointing quarterly results. Its stock lost $2.52, or 7.6 percent, to $30.48.

Investors are watching for clues on whether the U.S. Federal Reserve will raise interest rates next month. Speeches by several Fed members this week may provide insight into what Fed policymakers might do at their meeting in June.

Benchmark U.S. crude picked up 48 cents to $48.58 a barrel in New York. Brent crude, used to price international oils, rose 33 cents to $48.68 a barrel in London.

The dollar rose to 109.95 yen from 109.19 yen. The euro slipped to $1.1150 from $1.1221.