Stocks started December with a jump. The Dow Jones industrial average rose 249 points, its biggest gain since Sept. 1.
An encouraging employment report and hopes that Europe's debt crisis may ease boosted major indexes Wednesday, erasing nearly two weeks of losses. Bond prices and the dollar fell as investors moved money into riskier assets.
Signs that the U.S. job market thawed in November jump-started the gains. ADP Employer Services, a payroll company, said small businesses added the largest number of workers in three years last month, well ahead of what analysts had forecast.
"The U.S. economy is all about jobs, and anything that leads folks to believe that there's a better job market will be good for equities," said Paul Zemsky, the head of asset allocation at ING Investment Management.
The Dow rose 249.76, or 2.3 percent, to 11,255.78. The Standard & Poor's 500 index rose 19.47, or 1.64 percent, to 1,206.07. The Nasdaq composite rose 51.20, or 2.1 percent, to 2,549.43.
All 10 industry groups that make up the S&P index were higher, led by energy, industrial and technology companies. And all 30 stocks in the Dow index rose, led by Home Depot Inc.
Greg Walker, a global investment strategist at J.P. Morgan Private Bank, said the ADP report gave traders confidence that the overall U.S. employment rate will fall. The Labor Department will release the November unemployment rate tomorrow.- AP