NEW YORK — Wall Street ended a tumultuous March on a high note, managing its first winning month this year and its best monthly performance in nearly seven years.
Stocks finished off their earlier highs on Tuesday but resumed a three-week rally that has brought the Dow Jones industrials up a total of 16 percent since hitting their lowest level in 12 years on March 9.
The Dow rose 7.7 percent overall in March, its biggest monthly gain since October 2002.
Technology and financial shares led the rally as large investors loaded up on rising stocks in order to report strong holdings at the end of the first quarter, which ended Tuesday.
Investors shrugged off lackluster economic data and snatched up some of the biggest names in technology and banking including Google, IBM, Bank of America and Citigroup.
The market is coming off a two-day pullback as stocks took a breather from a recent surge driven by optimism that U.S. banks may be emerging from the worst of a lending crisis.
The Dow Jones rose 86.90, or 1.2 percent, to 7,608.92, after earlier rising as much as 203 points.
The Standard & Poor's 500 gained 10.34, or 1.3 percent, to 797.87, while the technology-heavy Nasdaq rose 26.79, or 1.8 percent, to 1,528.59.
The Dow, which broke a string of six monthly declines, is still down 13.3 percent for the year. The S&P 500 is down 11.7 percent, and the Nasdaq is down 3.1 percent.
In other trading, the Russell 2000 index of smaller companies rose 6.78, or 1.6 percent, to 422.75.
The advance Tuesday was also supported by "window dressing" buying as large investors not wanting to end the quarter with large amounts of cash loaded up on stocks they think have good prospects.
"Technology, of all the S&P sectors, is the only one that is up on the year," said Craig Peckham, an analyst at Jefferies & Co. "If you're going to try to window dress anywhere on the last day of the quarter, technology is a good place to start."
Technology shares got a lift from a deal between The Walt Disney Co. and Google that will allow Google's video site YouTube to show short-form videos from Disney's ABC and ESPN networks. Disney shares rose 31 cents to $18.64, while Google gained $5.37 to $348.06.
Investors looked past a number of economic reports, including the S&P Case-Shiller index of 20 cities, which showed that U.S. home prices declined by a record 19 percent in January from a year ago.
Separately, a measure of consumer confidence inched up in March after plummeting to historic lows in February.
Crude oil rose $1.25 to settle at $49.66 a barrel.
The dollar was lower against other major currencies. Gold prices rose.
Overseas, Britain's FTSE 100 rose 4.3 percent, Germany's DAX index rose 2.4 percent, and France's CAC-40 rose 3.2 percent. Japan's Nikkei stock average fell 1.5 percent.