A burst of buying swept across the stock market Wednesday, giving the Dow Jones industrials their second triple-digit gain for the first time in nearly three months.
After a session spent vacillating between modest gains and losses, the market began to climb sharply higher in the last hour of trading.
The Dow rose more than 180 points.
Analysts attributed the late-day surge to big institutional investors placing bets on stocks, which triggered a wave of buying. Better-than-expected earnings and expectations of another interest rate cut by the Federal Reserve, which meets next week, also contributed to the gains.
"Its momentum driven," said Arthur Hogan, chief market analyst at Jefferies & Co. in New York. "Theres some enthusiasm for Ciscos numbers and what the Fed may do next week.
"That started momentum that no one wanted to get in the way of," he said.
The Dow closed up 182.89, or 2.2 percent, at 8,456.98. The blue-chip indicator climbed 230.46 on Tuesday.
The last time the Dow had two straight triple-digit advances was May 13-14. Meanwhile, the Dow has endured seven triple-digit losing streaks in that time.
The broader market also posted gains.
The Nasdaq composite index rose 21.46, or 1.7 percent, to 1,281.01, after advancing 53.54 on Tuesday. The Standard & Poors 500 index advanced 17.24, or 2 percent, to 876.81, following Tuesdays gain of 24.97.
Cisco Systems Inc. rose 92 cents, to $12.99. Late Tuesday, Cisco reported slightly stronger-than-expected profits for its fiscal fourth quarter, but a cautious outlook for the rest of the year.
Other networking shares also advanced, including Broadcom Corp., which rose 30 cents, to $17.42.
Among blue chips, drug stocks rose on stronger-than-expected earnings from Watson Pharmaceuticals Inc.
Watson rose $1.80, to $20.90, and Eli Lilly & Co. advanced $2.88, to $55.52.
Retailers advanced ahead of July sales results, which are due out Thursday.
Wal-Mart Stores Inc. climbed $1.10, to $48.38, while Best Buy Inc. rose 80 cents, to $30.80.
Buying was so widespread that even financial stocks rose, despite Merrill Lynch & Co. cutting its outlook on several brokerages.
Goldman Sachs & Co. rose $1.05, to $70.95.
Still, analysts were guarded about reading too much into the markets two-day rally, saying investors are still feeling guarded about the markets prospects.
After a string of disappointing economic reports, including weaker-than-expected second-quarter gross domestic product, investors also are worried that the economy could slip back into recession.
"Valuations are still high, earnings are not very good, and the economy is soft -- so its tough to get a lot of progress to the upside with all this overhang," said Gary Kaltbaum, market technician for Investors Edge Partners in Orlando, Fla. "This volatility is not going to go away anytime soon."
Others said Wall Streets gains are vulnerable, because they stem largely from institutional investors, such as hedge-fund managers, who capitalize on moving quickly in and out of the market.
"The markets are so volatile and so thin," said Michael Murphy, head trader for Wachovia Securities Inc. in New York. "Theres just no reason for people to go out and throw everything in the market right now."
Advancing issues outnumbered decliners 3-to-2 on the New York Stock Exchange, where volume was moderate.
The Russell 2000 index, which tracks smaller-company stocks, rose 2.69, or 0.7 percent, to 383.48.
Overseas, Japans Nikkei stock average finished Wednesday with a gain of 3.5 percent.
In Europe, Frances CAC-40 fell 0.4 percent, Britains FTSE 100 declined 0.9 percent, and Germanys DAX index dropped 2.9 percent.
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