It was a strong day in the markets, as all three major indices were up about 1% thanks to positive job and housing data. Jobless claims fell to their lowest level since the middle of 2008 and pending home sales are at their highest since mid-2010. Italian bond auctions were a little shaky, selling less than hoped, but the interest rate on that debt was under the key 7% threshold at 6.98% and lower than the country paid last month at 7.56%.

In response, the Dow Jones Industrial Average (INDEX: ^DJI) was todays best performer of the three major indices rising 1.12%, a 135-point gain. The Nasdaq gained 0.92% and the S&P 500 (INDEX: ^GSPC) closed up 1.07%, putting it back into positive territory and giving it a good shot of closing up overall for the year.

Inside the Dow, the biggest gainers were the two Wall Street banks, Bank of America (NYSE: BAC) and JPMorgan Chase (NYSE: JPM), adding 3.3% and 2.4%, respectively. Good macro news both domestically and in Europe was bound to help the big banks, which have been volatile lately. Finishing in third was Hewlett-Packard (NYSE: HPQ) with a gain on 1.7% on no news. Well, almost no news, as the Delaware Supreme Court is unsealing a potentially embarrassing letter linked to the departure of former CEO Mark Hurd.

Also noteworthy were ExxonMobil (NYSE: XOM), up 1.3%, and Chevron (NYSE: CVX), up 1.4%, which had better-than-average days with Iran stirring up trouble in the Middle East and an unanticipated U.S. inventory jump. Oil prices are sitting right under $100 a barrel at $99.70 and have an excellent chance of ending the year above triple digits.

All told, it appears the market is doing its best to close out 2011 on a positive note. If that's the case, let's hope it's one trend we see continue into the new year.

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David Williamson holds no position in any company mentioned. Check out his holdings and a short bio. The Motley Fool owns shares of Bank of America and JPMorgan Chase. Motley Fool newsletter services have recommended buying shares of Chevron. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools don't all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.