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Stocks Close Up Broadly On Hopes for Greece

Stocks closed broadly higher on optimism that help was on the way for Greece to deal with its heavy debt burden.

Europe appeared to be moving closer to working out some kind of rescue plan despite conflicting reports earlier in the day. The Wall Street Journal reported just before the closing bell that Germany is considering loan guarantees for Greece and other troubled European countries.

Stocks had been holding around 1 percent gains for the session but staged a powerful surge as speculation swirled over the sovereign debt issue. The rally came after a late-day selloff Monday that sent the Dow to a sub-10,000 close for the first time since November.

"Certainly it's a step in the right direction. A lot of the selloff was due to concerns about the sovereign debt," said Todd Salamone, senior vice president of research at Schaeffer's Investment Research in Cincinnati. "Now there's a potential solution in the works. That would at least buy time with the situation."

While the broad market gained from optimism over the potential for Greece help, US-traded shares of Deutsche Bank jumped nearly 8 percent.

Energy, industrials and materials led sector gainers on the S&P, each registering gains of more than 2 percent. Health care and financials trailed but were still positive.

Gains also were limited just a bit on the technology side after Electronic Arts disappointed investors Monday with earnings results and expectations that trailed forecasts. The bad news carried into today's trading and sent the company's shares down nearly 10 percent to be the biggest drag on the Nasdaq.

The rally also ran into a brief stumbling block after bank stocks fell on a downgrade from Standard & Poor's.

Bank of America briefly shed nearly 1 percent after S&P cut its rating for BofA and Citigroup to "negative" on worries that a second bailout of the banks would leave bond holders dry.

"We believe there is increased uncertainty about the U.S. government's willingness to provide additional extraordinary support to highly systemically important financial institutions in a way that will benefit debt holders," S&P analyst Scott Sprinzen wrote in a research note.

The companies could pay the price for the government's efforts to reduce the fallout that comes with bailouts.

"We believe markets are beginning to stabilize and the U.S. government is seeking ways to reduce the potential for moral hazard and systemic risk associated with large financial institutions," S&P analyst John K. Bartko wrote.

In earnings news, Dow component Coca-Cola posted a profit of 66 cents a share, in line with estimates and enough to send its shares up.

Fellow Dow component Caterpillar saw its shares climb on an upgrade from Morgan Stanley. The stock led the bluechip index.

McDonald's shares gained after the company reported a 2.6 percent increase in global monthly sales but sluggish US growth for January.

The dollar weakened against the euro, giving a lift to commodities as oil settled at $73.75 a barrel.

The Dow US Airlines Index surged more than 5 percent with American Airlines parent AMR jumping more than 12 percent. Japan Airlines decided to maintain its partnership with American after considering a possible tie-up with DeltaAir Lines.

United Airlines parent UAL was the top percentage gainer in the group and on the Nasdaq after it reported January revenue that easily exceeded Wall Street forecasts.

The Dow US Brewers Index fell more than 3 percent after Molson Coors reported earnings that missed analyst estimates.

This Week:

WEDNESDAY: Weekly mortgage applications; trade balance; Google hearing; weekly crude inventories; Fed's Plosser speaks; 1o-year auction; Earnings from NYT, Sprint Nextedol, Boston Scientific and Prudential; Chicago auto show starts
THURSDAY: Retail sales; weekly jobless claims; 30-year auction; Earnings from Pepsi, Philip Morris, and Viacom; Fashion week starts; Miami boat show starts
FRIDAY: Consumer sentiment; Winter Olympics starts