NEW YORK Wall Street shook off early doldrums and closed sharply higher Tuesday after another drop in oil prices encouraged investors to set aside financial sector worries and go bargain hunting across the market.
Stocks initially fell on uneasiness about the continuing impact of the housing market downturn and the credit crisis on financial company earnings. Disappointing results from American Express Co. and Wachovia Corp. fed those worries.
But a $4 drop in oil which took crude's decline in recent weeks to nearly $20 a barrel persuaded some investors to wade back into equities.
Even Wachovia Corp., the nation's fourth-largest bank, shot 8 percent higher after its stock tumbled to levels not seen since the early-1990s. The stock was pummeled after the retail bank posted an $8.9 billion loss because of charges and reserves for bad mortgage loans.
The focus on higher oil's impact on the economy has been so intense that any notch lower breeds optimism that the commodities bubble might perhaps be nearing an end, analysts said. That means, for the moment, corporate earnings reports have lost some of their dominance of the market.
The market was looking at the long-term impact of somewhat cheaper energy and likely betting that company earnings would pick up if oil extends its decline.
According to preliminary calculations, the Dow Jones industrial average rose 135.16, or 1.18 percent, to 11,602.50. The blue chip index rose 400 points last week, but ended Monday's session slightly lower.
Broader indexes also rose. The Standard & Poor's 500 index jumped 17.00, or 1.35 percent, to 1,277.00. The technology-dominated Nasdaq composite index, which was down for much of the session on tech earnings disappointments, ended up 24.43, or 1.07 percent, at 2,303.96.
The price of oil began the session mildly lower on expectations that Tropical Storm Dolly wouldn't disrupt oil operations in the Gulf of Mexico. The advance increased after comments from a Federal Reserve official sent the dollar higher against major currencies, a trend that in turn sends commodities lower.
A barrel of light sweet crude tumbled $3.09 to settle at $127.95 on the New York Mercantile Exchange, down nearly $20 from its record high of $147.27, reached just weeks ago.