Stocks Close Higher, Led by Banks, Oil, Boeing

Stocks closed with modest gains, helped by a rally among bank stocks as well as higher oil prices.

Boeing was the main driver behind the rise in the Dow Industrials. The company said its 787 Dreamliner would make its first flight by the end of this year, with the first delivery expected in the fourth quarter of 2010.

Dell reported better-than-expected quarterly earnings and revenue moments before the final bell. The stock immediately jumped and closed sharply higher. Click here for an after-hours quote.

A decision by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp to widen the pool of buyers for troubled banks helped set the stage for the mid-afternoon bounce.

American International Group shares exploded after the company's new chief executive told Reuters on Wednesday that he did not support a fire sale of the troubled insurer's assets. AIG's stock has more than tripled in price since the beginning of August when it named Robert Benmosche as its new CEO. (Click here to read more about AIG's runnup.)

The New York Stock Exchange, downtown Manhattan.
Oliver Quillia for
The New York Stock Exchange, downtown Manhattan.

Citigroup jumped on a report in the New York Post that hedge fund manager John Paulson has been buying the company's shares.

The SPDR Financial ETF turned higher after being negative earlier.

A rise in oil prices also boosted stocks.

US light, sweet crude dropped more than $1 a barrel, briefly falling below $70, but then rebounded and was headed for a healthy gain into the close of trading.

Stock prices reacted little to an auction of seven-year Treasury notesthat generated solid demand.

The market earlier digested economic reports a bit better than expectedas signs developed that the market was ready to take a breather from its violent five-month surge off the March lows.

There were still fears that a pullback, possibly coinciding with the end of the month, was developing.

"I'm taking a little risk off the table," Art Cashin, director of floor operations at UBS, told CNBC. "September is truly one of the toughest months on the calendar, so I think it's prudent to pull your horns in somewhat."

The mood seemed to be catching; fund managers pared their exposure to stocks and raised their bond holdings, a Reuters poll showed.

In housing, Toll Brothers reported a smaller than expected loss for its latest quarter. The company also reported it was able to cut incentives and raise prices in some of its markets, and that cancellation rates are dropping.

Its shares, along with those of competitor Hovnanian , turned positive after being lower through morning trading.

TiVo shares dropped it reported a smaller-than-expected loss, with sales exceeding estimates. It's also filing lawsuits against both Verizon and AT&T over patents regarding its time-shifting DVR technology, sending shares of both companies lower.

Verizon was the leading drag on the Dow.

Market breadth was narrowly positive. Volume continued to be typically light for a late-summer trading day, with about 780 million shares changing hands on the New York Stock Exchange with one hour left.