Sliding Oil Prices, BofA News Trigger Rally

FOX Business: The Power to Prosper

Stocks climbed Tuesday, with the blue chips gaining 124 points, as traders cheered optimistic news from Bank of America and crude prices crept lower.

Today's Markets 

The Dow Jones Industrial Average jumped 124 points, or 1%, to 12,214, the S&P 500 gained 11.7 points, or 0.89%, to 1,321 and Nasdaq Composite was higher by 20.1 points, or 0.73%, to 2,765. The FOX 50 increased by 8.5 points to 936.

The financial sector outperformed the rest of the market, after banking-giant Bank of America (NYSE:BAC) said it sees its profits rising.

“We can generate significant excess capital and return it to shareholders,” said Bank of America Chief Executive Officer, Brian Moynihan.

The energy sector, including companies like Marathon Oil (NYSE:MRO) and Valero (NYSE:VLO), was the only industry to decline as oil prices tumbled.

Tumultuous energy markets have been sending worldwide equities gyrating between gains and losses in recent sessions.

Oil has climbed higher recently on fears that unrest that has hit Libya, Bahrain and Egypt would spread to larger oil producers, like Saudi Arabia. Indeed, the situation in Libya has continued escalating, with reports Libyan leader Muammar al-Qaddafi has launched more strikes at rebel forces near the Ras Lanouf oil port.

"Events in the Middle East have raised the specter of another oil shock," wrote Nigel Gault, chief U.S. economist at IHS Global Insight, in a research note.

Light, sweet crude edged lower by 42 cents, or 0.42%, to $105.02 a barrel after Kuwaiti Oil Minister Sheik Ahmed al-Abdullah al-Sabah said the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries is in informal talks about boosting its oil production.

The 12-nation cartel -- which controls an estimated 35% of the world's oil -- isn't scheduled to formally meet until June 8.  Other OPEC-members, including Qatar, have indicated they believe speculation in futures markets, and not fundamental shifts in supply, is to blame for spiking prices.

Airlines such as Southwest (NYSE:LUV) and American (NYSE:AMR) that are particularly sensitive to shifts in oil prices have gained on the day.

Despite today's downturn in crude, consumers continue paying higher prices at the pump.  The average price for a gallon of regular is $3.52, up from $3.12 last month and $2.75 last year.

Markets also considered a report on small business owners' confidence in the economy. The National Federation of Independent Business's optimism index inched higher by 0.4 point, from January, to 94.5 in February. Owners also said they were ramping up employment in February, with the employment sub-index climbing 5%.

Small businesses are a major driver of labor market and economic growth.  In fact, small businesses account for 49.6% of private-sector jobs, according to the U.S. Small Business Administration.

Gold recently dipped $5.30, or 0.37%, to $1,428 a troy ounce as traders moved assets from the safe-haven to riskier markets.

In currencies, the dollar gained 0.34% against other world currencies, and the euro tumbled 0.42% against the greenback.

Corporate Movers

Johnson & Johnson (NYSE:JNJ) is recalling five lots of its Animas diabetes drug, as potentially leaky insulin cartridges can lead to serious health problems.

Boeing (NYSE:BA) struck a deal to sell 43 planes -- including 30 of its new Dreamliners -- to Air China and Hong Kong Airlines.

Microsoft (NASDAQ:MSFT) will pay Nokia (NYSE:NOK) more than $1 billion to develop smartphones using the Windows Phone 7, according to a report by The Wall Street Journal.

Deutsche Telekom is in talks to sell its T-Mobile division to Sprint Nextel (NYSE:S) in exchange for a major stake in the combined entity, according to media reports. .

Netflix (NASDAQ:NFLX) was one of the worst performing issues in the S&P 500, with shares sinking nearly 5%, on news social-media-behemoth Facebook will integrate Warner Brothers' video streaming service into its Web site.

Urban Outfitters (NASDAQ:URBN) shares tumbled after the company reported its fourth-quarter profits dropped 3% to 45 cents a share, far lower than analysts' estimates of 52 cents a share. Several firms also dropped their outlook on the clothing retailer.

Morgan Stanley (NYSE:MS) is considering dropping the 73-year-old Smith Barney name from its brokerage division.

Dick's Sporting Goods unveiled fourth-quarter earnings of 76 cents a share, a quarter-over-quarter gain of 30%, beating analysts' estimates of 72 cents.

KKR (NYSE:KFN) -- the private equity firm -- is tapping Ralph Rosenberg to run its global real estate division.

Foreign Markets

Global shares largely gained in choppy trading Tuesday. Brent crude -- the type of crude oil that is heavily used in Europe -- tumbled 2.1% to $112.66 a barrel.

In Europe, the English FTSE 100 inched 0.02% higher to 5,974, the French CAC 40 was up 0.64% to 4,015 and the German DAX swung higher by 0.04% to 7,164.

In Asian markets,  the Japanese Nikkei 225 was up 0.19% to 10,525 and the Chinese Hang Seng jumped 1.71% to 23,711.