Stocks rose strongly early Tuesday on signs that Europe's debt markets remain resilient and China's economic slowdown has been gradual.
Debt auctions by Spain, Greece and Europe's bailout fund drew solid interest from investors Tuesday, easing fears that recent credit-rating downgrades would prevent troubled nations from obtaining funds. Many had feared the downgrades would increase borrowing costs and intensify the region's debt crisis.
The Chinese government said earlier that its economy slowed less dramatically in the fourth quarter than analysts had expected.
The Dow Jones industrial average rose 130 points, or 1.1 percent, to 12,551 in the first half-hour of trading. The Standard & Poor's 500 index rose 12, or 0.9 percent, to 1,301. The Nasdaq composite index rose 26, or 1 percent, to 2,737.
The market was closed Monday for Martin Luther King Jr. Day.
Bank stocks were mixed after several of them reported earnings. Wells Fargo & Co. rose 3 percent after its results beat Wall Street estimates as its lending business improved. Citigroup Inc. fell 3 percent and M&T Bank Corp. fell 2 percent after their earnings fell short of estimates.
Carnival Corp. plunged 14 percent, the most in the S&P 500, after a cruise ship owned by one of its brands capsized off the coast of Italy, killing 11 passengers. Italian prosecutors are charging the captain with manslaughter, causing a shipwreck and abandoning his ship before all passengers were evacuated.
Overseas markets rose earlier Tuesday after Spain auctioned off billions in short-term debt at lower interest rates, indicating strong demand for the nation's bonds. Spain's borrowing costs had spiked in recent weeks on fears it would be engulfed by the debt crisis and default on its debts.
Standard & Poor's downgraded Spain on Friday. The low rates at the auction suggested that investors took the downgrade in stride.
Greece also auctioned off short-term debt on Tuesday at a lower rate than it had been paying. And the fund to bail out Greece and other troubled nations also raised money, despite a downgrade on Monday, the Wall Street Journal reported.
The bailout fund's credit rating is based on the ratings of the nations that back it. Its downgrade was caused by S&P's downgrades of most nations that use the euro.
Earlier, the Chinese government said its economic growth slowed to 8.9 percent in the fourth quarter. That was the lowest in two and a half years, but still better than the 8.7 percent predicted by analysts.
A rapid slowdown in China would threaten the world economy because of slowing growth in Europe and across the developing world.
Asian and European markets rose strongly. The benchmark stock indexes in France and Germany each gained more than 1 percent.
Greece's international lenders are inspecting the nation's efforts at fiscal and structural reform and negotiating over its next round of bailout cash. Greece continues to rely on international loans to prevent a potentially disastrous default on its bonds.
Greece still lacks a deal with the private holders of those bonds. The international lenders say it needs a deal to get the next chunk of bailout cash.
Follow Daniel Wagner at www.twitter.com/wagnerreports.