The gains brought the Standard & Poor’s 500 index nearly back to breakeven for the year following steep declines in August and September. Industrials stocks were among the index’s biggest gainers.
The rally followed a batch of encouraging earnings from McDonald’s, eBay and other companies. Alphabet, Microsoft and Amazon also delivered better-than-expected results shortly after the close of regular trading.
News that the European Central Bank could consider expanding its stimulus program in December also helped rally the market. Such a move could help stimulate spending in the region, a plus for U.S. companies struggling with declining overseas revenue, said Bob Doll, chief equity strategist at Nuveen Asset Management.
The Dow climbed 320.55 points, or 1.9 percent, to 17,489.16. The S&P 500 index rose 33.57 points, or 1.7 percent, to 2,052.51. The last time the Dow and S&P 500 delivered bigger single-day gains was Oct. 5.
The Nasdaq added 79.93 points, or 1.7 percent, to 4,920.05.
A surge in European stocks set the stage for the three major U.S. stock indexes to go higher early on Thursday. Beyond that, investors pored over the latest slate of company earnings, which helped put them in a buying mood.
U.S. companies have been struggling to drum up sales overseas amid a stronger dollar, which makes their products less competitive, and decreased demand due to a sluggish global economy.
About 148 companies in the S&P 500 index have reported third-quarter earnings; 68 percent of those report results that beat Wall Street’s expectations.
Nine of the 10 sectors in the S&P 500 index rose, led by industrials, up 2.8 percent. The sector is down 2.7 percent this year. Health care stocks fell 0.5 percent. The sector is down 0.9 percent.
Germany’s DAX rose 2.5 percent, while the CAC-40 in France rose 2.3 percent. The FTSE 100 index of leading British shares gained 0.4 percent.
In China, the Shanghai Composite Index finished up 1.4 percent following a 3 percent slide Wednesday. Elsewhere in Asia stock markets closed mostly lower. Japan’s Nikkei 225 fell 0.6 percent and South Korea’s Kospi dropped 1 percent. Hong Kong’s Hang Seng fell 0.6 percent.
In energy futures trading, benchmark U.S. crude rose 18 cents to $45.38 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange. Brent crude, used to price international oils, added 23 cents to $48.08 a barrel in London.
Wholesale gasoline rose 2.6 cents to close at $1.307 a gallon on the New York Mercantile Exchange, while heating oil rose 1.5 cents to $1.465 a gallon.
Natural gas fell 1.8 cents to close at $2.386 per 1,000 cubic feet.
Precious and industrial metals futures were mixed. Gold fell $1 to $1,166.10 an ounce, silver rose 13 cents to $15.84 an ounce and copper gained 2 cents to $2.38 a pound.
U.S. government bond prices rose. The yield on the 10-year Treasury note fell to 2.02 percent from 2.03 percent the day before.
The euro fell to $1.1109 while the dollar rose to 120.72 yen.