NEW YORK General Electric Co. and other industrial companies pushed stocks higher after another choppy session Tuesday, the second day of gains in a row.
It was the first back-to-back gain since the last week of August and only the third time the market has closed higher this month. On the five days the market closed lower in September, the Dow Jones industrial average lost between 100 and 303 points.
The Dow rose 44.73 points, or 0.4 percent, to close at 11,105.85. The Dow moved between small gains and losses for much of the day, then turned higher in the last half-hour.
The Standard & Poors 500 index rose 10.60, or 0.9 percent, to 1,172.87.
Trading was quiet compared with the many wild swings the market has had since early August. The Dow traded in a range of just 153 points, the narrowest since July 26. The average daily range during August was twice as big, 337 points. The last time the Dow traded in a larger range was November 2008, at the peak of the financial crisis.
Investors have been struggling with uncertainty over the European debt crisis and questions over which way the U.S. economy is going, said Ryan Detrick, senior technical strategist at Schaeffers Investment Research. That fear of the unknown has made markets especially volatile. Traders seem to be hanging on every piece of news or rumor out of Europe.
Its a difficult environment for a long-term investor, Detrick said. Any news can take you significantly higher or lower. Theres just so much volatility.
European markets rose broadly Tuesday. Major French banks soared after BNP Paribas denied that it had trouble borrowing dollars from other banks and investors in short-term credit markets.
Italys finance minister also confirmed that officials had met with Chinas sovereign wealth fund about buying Italian bonds. A report that China may buy Italian government bonds helped U.S. stock indexes eke out slight gains Monday. All of the gains came in a sudden burst of buying in the last 15 minutes of trading.
Detrick says the uncertainty has started to drive retail investors out of stocks. Americans pulled $36 billion out of U.S. stock funds in August, according to preliminary data from the Investment Company Institute. Thats second only to the $47 billion withdrawn from U.S. stock funds at the height of the financial crisis in October 2008.
The Nasdaq composite gained 37.06, or 1.5 percent, to 2,532.15. The S&P 500 index, jumped 6 percent to $1,172.87.