With the Dow Jones Industrial Average (INDEX: ^DJI ) having fallen more than 1,175 points in slightly over a month, the traditional battle lines were drawn between bearish investors looking for a crash and bottom-feeding value investors seeking bargains. Today, the bulls won the contest, with stocks soaring as investors started to see signs of plans falling into place to address Europe's financial crisis. The Dow finished up 287 points, while the S&P 500 and Nasdaq Composite also rose between 2% and 2.5%.
The best-performing stocks in the Dow, though, rose quite a bit more than that. Bank of America (NYSE: BAC ) was the big gainer on the day, rising more than 7%. If the Federal Reserve ends up working with other central banks to ease monetary policy yet again, then investors expect banks around the world to benefit from their continuing low-interest rate policies.
United Technologies (NYSE: UTX ) gained almost 4% as the company continues to move toward completing its acquisition of Goodrich next month. A return to a stronger economy could bode especially well for companies tied to the defense industry, as improving economic growth might forestall planned government budget cutbacks by making them unnecessary.
Oil stocks also performed quite well, even though crude oil prices were up only about 1%. ExxonMobil (NYSE: XOM ) and Chevron (NYSE: CVX ) both climbed more than 3%, even as many smaller players in the industry posted even larger gains. Oil still has quite a long way to go to get back to its $100-plus prices from a few months back, but the growing belief that the economy won't plunge so far that it hampers energy demand is definitely supporting big oil stocks like Exxon and Chevron today.
Is the bull back?
When stocks rise, smart investors put their money where their mouths are. We have the inside scoop in our brand-new special report, where you'll find a number of stocks only the smartest investors are buying. We invite you to download a free copy -- get started right now.