NEW YORK Stocks surged to their highest level in five months Tuesday after a measure of the most important driver of the U.S. economy surged ahead in September, a hopeful sign for the countrys main source of employment.
A surprise move by the Bank of Japan to cut its key interest rate to virtually zero also lifted stocks worldwide. The dollar fell as investors shed defensive assets, and a gauge of U.S. stock market volatility fell.
The Institute for Supply Management reported that its index of business activity at U.S. service companies expanded again last month, and far faster than analysts were expecting. The ISMs measure of service companies encompasses a wide range of industries including finance, health care and trade.
It was the ninth consecutive month of expansion in service businesses, which have been growing at a slower pace in the U.S. relative to the much smaller manufacturing sector. Service providers account for about 83 percent of all private employment in the U.S.
Traders are also hoping to get more positive news from the beginning of corporate earnings reports this week and from another key economic indicator, the Labor Departments monthly jobs survey Friday. PepsiCo Inc. and Alcoa Inc. report results Thursday.
In corporate news, Mexican broadcaster Grupo Televisa said it would invest $1.2 billion in Univision Communications, expanding a license deal between the Spanish-language media heavyweights. Televisas U.S. shares rose 9.8 percent.
The Dow Jones industrial average rose 193.45 points, or 1.8 percent, to close at 10,944.72, its highest close since May 3 and its biggest gain since Sept. 24. The Dow is still 2.3 percent below is 2010 high reached on April 26, and is up 5 percent for the year so far.
All but one of the 30 companies that make up the average rose, led by Boeing Co. and Bank of America Corp. American Express Co. fell again, a day after the company said it would fight an antitrust lawsuit, even after Visa and MasterCard settled similar suits.
The Standard & Poors 500 index rose 23.72, or 2.1 percent, to 1,160.75. The index broke through 1,150, a level it hadnt traded above since mid-May, and kept on going.
Robert Pavlik, chief market strategist at Banyan Partners LLC in New York, cited another factor in todays upward swing: Even when stocks have fallen lately, the S&P 500 has managed to stay above 1,130, a key technical barrier that it had broken through on Sept. 20. He said that has given jittery investors confidence to buy.
A lot folks who have cash on the sidelines are being drawn into the market because they dont want to be left behind, Pavlik says. I think theres potential to get to 1,200 by the end of the year.