Stocks climbed back from the lows of the year as investors shrugged off continuing uncertainty in Japan to send stocks broadly higher.
The Dow Jones Industrial Average gained 161.29 points, or 1.4 percent, to close at 11,774.59 after falling 242 points on Wednesday as traders whipsawed the blue-chip index with every news development in Japan's nuclear crisis.The Dow has risen 1.7 percent for the year.
Among Dow components, Hewlett-Packard , Pfizer and Verizongained, while Kraft fell.
The S&P 500 rose 16.84 points, or 1.34 percent, to close at 1,273.72, now up 1.28 percent for the year. The Nasdaq rose 19.23 points, or 0.7 percent, to close at 2,636.05, still leaving the tech-heavy index slightly in the red for 2011.
The CBOE Volatility Index, widely considered the best gauge of fear in the market, sank nearly 9 percent to below 27. On Wednesday, the VIX skyrocketed more than 20 percent to above 29, as investors tried to gauge the implications of the crisis at the Fukushima Daiichi power plant in Japan.
All key S&P 500 sectors rose, led by energy, telecom and materials.
"Clearly the sell off we’ve had through the early part of this week was more of an emotional selloff," said Randy Frederick, director of trading and derivatives for Charles Schwab. "I still think in the long-term there’s reason to be optimistic."
The market dive this week is where the "experienced investors get separated from the ones who aren't," Frederick said, as experienced investors knew there was no fundamental reason for the sharp decline. It was "one of the best buying opportunities we've had in some time," he said.
The spike in the VIX, a measure of the market's uncertainty, is a temporary reaction to unfolding news event, and is likely to settle somewhere between 18 and 20, he added. Unless events in Japan turn even worse, "I can’t see it being up there for long," Frederick said.
Despite the market's rise, Scott Redler, chief strategic officer at t3live.com, said the "market still lacks a punch and potency," noting that stocks only regained a small portion of what they've lost in the last week or so.