NEW YORK – Stocks rose Wednesday as investors welcomed lower oil prices, a bright outlook from Oracle and better-than-expected results from the likes of Eli Lilly or Texas Instruments.
The Dow Jones industrial average (search) was up 37.03 points, or 0.35 percent, to close at 10,498.59. The Standard & Poor's 500 Index (search) was up 5.66 points, or 0.48 percent, to end at 1,174.07. The Nasdaq Composite Index (search) was up 26.14 points, or 1.29 percent, to finish at 2,046.09 -- its biggest gain so far this year.
However, it was only the second time this year that the Dow, the S&P 500 and the Nasdaq posted two consecutive days of gains. Equities have had a poor start to 2005 and on Monday, all three indexes closed at their lowest since November.
The market had got oversold," said Sam Rahman, portfolio manager at Baring Asset Management. "Having been super-bullish late last year, sentiment went very quickly -- in the space of three weeks -- from being very positive on the economy and earnings to very negative on a number of things. So it is technically a little oversold."
Among stocks gaining was S&P 500 component Texas Instruments (TXN) , which climbed 7.3 percent, or $1.54 to $22.66, a day after the world's largest maker of chips for cell phones posted earnings that topped a forecast it gave in December.
Another positive for stocks was a fall in oil prices, which earlier had neared the $50-a-barrel mark. NYMEX March crude fell 86 cents to settle at $48.78 a barrel, after trading from $47.90 to $49.70. Lower oil prices generally boost equities because they help lift consumer spending and corporate profit margins.
"I think a lot of traders are taking some solace in the fact that $50-a-barrel oil is going to be a very hard ceiling to go through," said Angel Mata, managing director of listed equity trading at Legg Mason Wood Walker.
The spate of good news and momentum from the previous session raised some hope that investors would return to the market in greater numbers.
"I think it feels like we might be able to hold a few days to the upside, assuming corporate earnings news continues to cooperate," said Jack Caffrey, equities strategist at J.P. Morgan Private Bank. "The good news is, the good news is spread around today. It's not like people are taking their cue from any one datapoint. It seems to make for a somewhat healthier backdrop."
Drug maker Eli Lilly and Co. (LLY), an S&P 500 stock, up 1.2 percent, or 65 cents, at $55.50 after it reported that earnings excluding special items beat analysts' estimates.
Software maker Oracle Corp. (ORCL) gained 3 cents to $13.62 after reiterating its outlook for the current fiscal year and sharply raising its forecast for 2006, citing likely earnings gains related to its acquisition of PeopleSoft.
Sirius Satellite Radio Inc. (SIRI) shed 6 cents to $6.18 after posting wider fourth-quarter losses. Still, holiday sales drove revenues up fivefold, prompting the company to raise its 2005 year-end subscriber estimate to more than 2.5 million.
ConocoPhillips (COP) added $1.59 to $90.49 after more than doubling its fourth-quarter income due to high prices for crude and natural gas prices and better refining margins. The nation's third-largest oil company beat estimates by a wide margin.
Electronic Arts Inc. (ERTS), the video game publisher, rose 9.2 percent, or $5.30, to $62.84, a day after it posted profits for its fiscal third quarter that beat market expectations.
Overall, trading was active, with 1.64 billion shares changing hands on the New York Stock Exchange, above the 1.46 billion daily average for last year. About 2.11 billion shares were traded on Nasdaq, above the 1.81 billion daily average last year. Advancers outnumbered decliners on the New York Stock Exchange by about 8 to 3 and by about 7 to 3 on Nasdaq.
The Russell 2000 index, which tracks smaller company stocks, was up 10.07, or 1.66 percent, at 616.57.
Overseas, Japan's Nikkei stock average added 0.88 percent. In Europe, France's CAC-40 shed 0.06 percent, Britain's FTSE 100 rose 0.08 percent and Germany's DAX index lost 0.47 percent.
Reuters and the Associated Press contributed to this report.