Goldman's earnings report "underscored the relief bid in the works in anticipation" of its results, said Action Economics analysts.
The Dow Jones Industrial Average gained 51.5 points to 13,218.7, with 23 of its 30 components trading higher.
Hewlett-Packard Co. was among the companies fronting blue-chip gains, its stock up 1.3%, along with AT&T Inc. , also ahead 1.3%.
The S&P 500 gained 5.85 points to 1,451.75, while the Nasdaq Composite climbed 13.03 points to 2.587.49.
Also bolstering equities was the ECB's move Tuesday to make available more than $500 billion to boost liquidity in the banking system. .
On the New York Mercantile Exchange, crude-oil futures were up $1.52 at $92.15 a barrel. .
And in the metal pits, gold rallied, recently climbing 1% to $807.1 an ounce.
Ahead of Wall Street's opening bell, stock futures held the bulk of their gains after the government reported new single-family home construction slowed to its weakest pace in 16 years in November, with starts down 5.4% to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 829,000. .
"For the second month in a row, the volatile multi-family starts category was strong, while single-family groundbreaking activity sagged," said Stephen Stanley, chief economist at RBS Greenwich Capital.
Early volume on the New York Stock Exchange came to 178 million shares, and advancing stocks topped those falling nearly 3 to 1. On the Nasdaq, 245 million shares were exchanged, advancers outran decliners almost 2 to 1.
Goldman Sachs reported fourth-quarter net income rose 2% from a year ago, with profit topping Wall Street estimates for an eighth straight quarter. Its stock, however, fell 0.9%.
And shares of Best Buy also fell, recently down 1.2%, after it said third-quarter profit climbed to 53 cents a share from 31 cents a year earlier, exceeding forecasts.
Adobe Systems Inc. shares were up 5.1% after the software maker late Monday reported strong fourth-quarter profit and sales that mostly topped analysts' estimates. .
In Europe, shares recovered a bit as investors moved back into banks as central banks moved to alleviate turmoil in the credit market. .
Asian stocks took a mostly upbeat course, with markets in Hong Kong and South Korea gaining and Japan's Nikkei 225 Average narrowing losses. .
On Monday, stock indexes fell to their lowest levels in more than two weeks on concern about U.S. economic growth.
By Kate Gibson