Stocks climbed back from the lows of the year on Thursday amid largely strong economic reports and after sharp drops in all the major indices on Wednesday.
The Dow Jones Industrial Average gained more than 125 points after falling 242 points on Wednesday as traders whipsawed the blue-chip index with every news development in Japan's nuclear crisis.
Most Dow components gained, led by Hewlett-Packard , Chevron , and Alcoa .
The S&P 500 and the Nasdaq also jumped, with both rising more than 1 percent. The indexes wiped out all gains for the year as of Wednesday's close.
The CBOE Volatility Index, widely considered the best gauge of fear in the market, sank nearly 11 percent to just above 26. On Wednesday, the VIX skyrocketed more than 20 percent to above 29.
Among key S&P 500 sectors, energy, materials and industrials gained, while utilities fell.
The markets started the session in a markedly different direction than Wednesday, when all the major indices fell to their lows for the year as investors reacted to the increasingly worrisome news over the nuclear crisis at the Fukushima Daiichi power plant. Stock zig-zagged higher and lower throughout the day depending on developments. As of the close Wednesday, half of the Dow components fell into the red for the year.