SAN FRANCISCO -- Despite Friday's dip, investors' appetite for stocks didn't emerge in earnest today until late in the session. But major proxies parlayed buying interest at the opening and close sandwiched around the luncheon meat of apathetic trading into a meal of modestly positive gains.

After a relatively subdued day, stock proxies rallied in unison after 3:00 p.m. EST and closed at or near session highs. A combination of the bond market's strong close and the

S&P 500

futures rise above 1395 led to the end-of-day advance, traders said.

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Positive comments from bullish strategists Abby Joseph Cohen of

Goldman Sachs

and Joe Battipaglia of

Gruntal

also contributed to the ultimate strong finish, others noted.

Following last week's 4.9% decline, the

Dow Jones Industrial Average

was the strongest major average throughout the session, trading as high as 10,549 before closing up 94.63, or 0.9%, to 10,519.94.

In addition to tech giant

Intel

(INTC) - Get Report

, the venerable index got its biggest boost from cyclical components such as

Caterpillar

(CAT) - Get Report

,

Alcoa

(AA) - Get Report

and

ExxonMobil

(XOM) - Get Report

. The

Morgan Stanley Cyclical Index

rose 2.1%.

ExxonMobil led a strong energy group, which responded to crude prices rising to over $30 a barrel at the

New York Mercantile Exchange

for the first time since 1991. The

Philadelphia Stock Exchange Oil Service Index

rose 4.8%.

The Deal Makers

United Technologies

rose 4% and

Honeywell

(HON) - Get Report

gained 3% after joining forces with

i2 Technologies

(ITWO)

to create an online marketplace for the aerospace industry. i2 Technologies rose 7.9%.

Other deals driving stocks featured

Healtheon/WebMD

(HLTH)

, which rose 3.1% despite pledging $7.6 billion of its stock to acquire

Medical Manager

(MMGR)

and its unit,

CareInsite

(CARI)

. Medical Manager leapt 31% while CareInsite gained 2.9%.

Elsewhere,

Sterling Software

(SSW) - Get Report

rose 5.3% after receiving a buyout offer from

Computer Associates

(CA) - Get Report

, which slid 0.6%.

Finally,

Net2Phone

(NTOP)

soared 23.7% after

CNBC

reported

America Online

(AOL)

is considering acquiring the firm. AOL fell 2.4%.

Afternoon Delight

Beyond the deal-inspired movers, it was a pretty quiet day for tech stocks although they received solid interest in the session's final hour.

The

Nasdaq Composite Index

rose 23.10, or 0.5%, to 4418.55 after trading as low as 4355.54. The

Nasdaq 100

rose 0.4%.

The

Philadelphia Stock Exchange Semiconductor Index

was strong throughout the session, rising 1.5%. The SOX's gains came thanks largely to strength in

Rambus

(RMBS) - Get Report

, which gained 26.1% after

Dell

(DELL) - Get Report

unveiled PCs with Intel-produced memory chips based on Rambus' technology. Intel gained 4.7% while Dell slid 1.2%.

TheStreet.com Internet Sector

index fell 14.84, or 1.3%.

The

S&P 500

added 2.82, or 0.2%, to 1389.94 while the

Russell 2000

rose 2.84, or 0.5%, to 539.94.

"This will lead to a positive feel for tomorrow," Sam Ginzburg, managing director of equity trading at

Gruntal

, said of the market's final hour push.

Even before the late-day gains, Ginzburg was expecting equities to rally, noting that "sleepy" activity is "usually a precursor to some sort of bounce," especially after a "leg down" such as the one evident Friday.

"The quieting down of selling and

absence of crazy volatility to me is leading the way to a potentially powerful rally, if we can get some good economic news and good guidance

from

Alan Greenspan

Thursday," he said.

Ginzburg referred to this week's battery of economic reports -- featuring the

Producer Price Index

Thursday and

Consumer Price Index

Friday -- as well as

Federal Reserve

chairman Greenspan's

Humphrey-Hawkins

testimony on Thursday.

As to whether the rally waits for the economic news and Greenspeak, the trader demurred, but noted "people somehow, someway have a good feeling" how these things will turn out before they occur.

"Bonds closed strong today" in advance of the economic data and testimony, he noted. "I think we catch up to it."

The price of the 30-year Treasury bond rose 19/32 to 100 8/32 its yield falling to 6.23%.

Trader, Unconvinced

But Ned Collins, executive vice president of U.S. stocks at

Daiwa Securities America

was more skeptical about whether today's advance augurs better times ahead for equities.

"I just don't think this showed the real kind of excitement that is going to say everything is slick and cool from here on," Collins said. "I still think on the

New York Stock Exchange

you had a sloppy market as far as technical

indicators go. The OTC looks a little better than the Big Board where the advance/decline and new highs/new lows are just lousy."

In NYSE trading, 927.3 million shares were exchanged while declining stocks led advancers 1,549 to 1,452. In

Nasdaq Stock Market

action 1.613 billion shares traded while gainers led 2,196 to 2,031. New 52-week lows swamped new highs 238 to 51 on the Big Board while new highs led 286 to 108 in over-the-counter trading.

Collins isn't bearish but called today's advance more of a "technical thing than something that got us out of the woods."

Additionally, "all in all it was a very boring 928 million-share day," he said.

Among other indices, the

Dow Jones Transportation Average

rose 1.3%; the

Dow Jones Utility Average

added 0.4% and the

American Stock Exchange Composite Index

rose 0.5%.