NEW YORK - Wall Street opened the second quarter with solid gains Wednesday, extending a four-week rally that brought the market off its lowest levels in 12 years.
After falling in the early going on disappointing jobs data, the Dow Jones industrials ended 153 points higher following economic data that showed a rebound in pending home sales and improving manufacturing activity. Major indexes all rose at least 1.5 percent.
The reports continued a strong run of positive news on the economy in recent weeks that has led many investors to wager that the recession is beginning to ease its grip. Further signs of improvement in the disastrous housing market were especially positive for banks, which are still struggling with mounds of bad mortgage debt.
Technology and energy shares also carved out advances Wednesday. As sentiment about the economy improves, investors have been buying up industries they believe are likely to lead the country out of recession.
The Dow charged ahead in March, rising 16 percent off of lows hit early in the month, but its movements over the first three months of the year have been among the most tumultuous on record. Only three other times in the Dow's history has it experienced 20 percent swings in both directions in one quarter.
Not over yet
Despite the strong gains in March, analysts are still warning against calling a bottom to the market and say more volatility could be in store.
"People seem to swing from one side to the other of 'the recovery has started' to 'the world is ending again,'" said Bill Stone, chief investment strategist at PNC Wealth Management.
The Dow rose 152.68, or 2 percent, to 7,761.60, and broader market indicators also rose. The Standard & Poor's 500 index rose 13.21, or 1.7 percent, to 811.08, and the Nasdaq composite index gained 23.01, or 1.5 percent, to 1,551.60.
Among the big gainers in the banking industry, Citigroup Inc. added 15 cents, or 5.9 percent, to $2.68, while J.P. Morgan Chase & Co. gained $1.56, or 5.9 percent, to $28.14.
Crude oil fell $1.27 to settle at $48.39 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange.