Mark Lennihan, Associated Press
This July 16, 2013 file photo shows a Wall Street street sign outside the New York Stock Exchange in New York. U.S. stocks are starting the week sharply higher Monday, March 30, 2015, led by energy companies.

U.S. stocks moved sharply higher in early trading Monday, as investors welcomed encouraging economic data on consumer spending in the U.S. The market also got a lift from a report suggesting that the economic recovery in the 19-country eurozone is gaining traction. Energy stocks were among the biggest gainers.

KEEPING SCORE: The Dow Jones industrial average climbed 256 points, or 1.5 percent, to 17,968 as of 10:02 a.m. Eastern. The Standard & Poor's 500 index rose 20 points, or 1 percent, to 2,081. The Nasdaq composite gained 45 points, or 0.9 percent, to 4,936.

CONSUMER REBOUND: The Commerce Department said that consumer spending edged up 0.1 percent in February following two straight monthly declines. The report also showed consumers' incomes rose a solid 0.4 percent, a development that could mean higher spending in coming months.

PRESCRIBED BUYOUT: UnitedHealth Group jumped 3.3 percent after the nation's largest health insurer said it would buy pharmacy benefits manager Catamaran Corp. Shares in UnitedHealth added $3.81 to $121.82. Catamaran vaulted 24 percent, adding $11.75 to $60.07.

SECTOR VIEW: The 10 sectors in the S&P 500 moved higher, with energy stocks notching the biggest gain. The sector was up 1.3 percent. Analog Devices led all stocks in the S&P 500, climbing $5.31, or 9 percent, to $64.15.

EUROZONE UPTICK: A survey from the European Commission showed economic sentiment across the region at its highest level since July 2011. Its main economic sentiment indicator rose to 103.9 in March from 102.3 the month before. That's consistent with annual economic growth of around 1.5 percent.

OVERSEAS MARKETS: In Europe, Germany's DAX was up 1.6 percent, while the CAC-40 in France rose 1 percent. The FTSE 100 index of leading British shares rose 0.3 percent. In Asia, Chinese stocks soared on hopes of more economic stimulus. The Shanghai Composite Index rose 2.6 percent, while Hong Kong's Hang Seng jumped 1.5 percent. Japan's benchmark Nikkei 225 closed up 0.7 percent.

ENERGY: Benchmark U.S. crude lost 27 cents to $48.60 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange.

BONDS: U.S. government bond prices rose. The yield on the 10-year Treasury note edged up to 1.95 percent from 1.97 percent late Friday.