Boosted by positive sentiment about an economic recovery, stocks reversed course into the final hour of regular trading to end mostly higher on Monday -- six months since the September 11 terrorist attacks.
The Dow Jones industrial average finished up 38.75 points, or 0.37%, to 10,611.24. The tech-heavy Nasdaq composite index was virtually unchanged, off 0.19 point to 1,929.49. The broader Standard & Poor's 500 index added 3.95 points, or 0.34% to 1,168.26.
Among the biggest Dow gainers were financials American Express (AXP) and JP Morgan Chase (JPM), perceived as among the first to benefit from an economic rebound.
Among the day's biggest losers were airline stocks. Energy futures, meanwhile, posted gains as oil futures climbed on news Iraq will not allow U.N. weapons inspectors into the oil-producing country.
"We remain optimistic that broader-than-U.S. consumer-driven bottoming out could take place," according to Subodh Kumar, chief investment strategist at CIBC World Markets. Kumar adds he's encouraged by cyclicals, which have been rebounding, and the sharp recovery in technology.
The modest buying mood that gained steam late in the session was preceded by some early morning profit taking after last week's gains. New reports, including one on the jobless rate, provided further evidence of a U.S. economy on the mend.
Among Monday's other stocks in the news, bankrupt discount retailer Kmart Corp. (KM) on Monday said its CEO Charles Conaway resigned and was replaced by Chairman James Adamson. The company on Friday announced the closure of 284 underperforming stores and 22,000 job cuts. Kmart shares were trading around a dollar.
On the earnings front, home products retailer Williams-Sonoma Inc. (WSM) on Monday reported its fiscal fourth-quarter earnings jumped 58% as consumers spent more money on their homes and the U.S. housing market boomed since the terrorist attacks.
And two integrated circuit companies announced plans to join forces. Intersil Corp. (ISIL) agreed to acquire Elantec Semiconductor (ELNT) in a deal valued at about $1.4 billion. Shares of Intersil were lower, while Elantec shares rose.
Treasuries ended mixed, with quiet late afternoon trading as short covering dried up and stocks edged back into the black.
In economic news, the Commerce Department said wholesale inventories fell for the eighth consecutive month. The stocks of unsold goods on wholesalers' shelves fell 0.2% in January to $287.7 billion after falling a revised 0.5% in December.
European markets finished lower. In London, the Financial Times-Stock Exchange 100 index was down 26.80 points, or 0.51%, to 5,258.90. The biggest contributors to the FTSE weakness included Vodafone, AstraZeneca, GlaxoSmithKline, HBSC Holdings and Royal Bank of Scotland. In France, the CAC 40 lost 42.36 points, or 0.92%, to 4,586.75. And in Germany, the DAX Index was lower by 18.88 points, or 0.35%, to 5,340.67. Among the losers were Deutsche Telekom, Siemens, Infineon and SAP.
In Asia, the markets ended higher. The Nikkei was off 33.51 points, or 0.28%, to 11,919.30, which was supported by growing optimism over a U.S. economic recovery. Also aiding sentiment was a shift in foreign investment capital back into Japan, and technical buy-backs related to new restrictions on short sales. In Hong Kong, the market added 85.64 points, or 0.76%, to 11,318.87.