Updated from 4:10 p.m. EDT

Stocks went on a tear late in Wednesday's session, with tech stocks out front, as the markets staged their second late-day rally in a row to put all three major indices on positive ground for 2004.



and the

S&P 500

broke out of their monthlong trading ranges to reach their highest closings since early April. The Dow gained 84.50 points, or 0.81%, to 10,479.57. The S&P 500 rose 9.63 points, or 0.85%, to 1144.04 0.7%.

Meanwhile, the


cleared its 2000-mark, moving well above its 200-day moving average. The tech-laden index added 26.83 points, or 1.35%, to 2020.98.

The Amex Network Index was up 3.9%, the Amex Biotech Index gained 2.2%, and the Philadelphia Semiconductor Index added 1.2%. Elsewhere, the Amex Airline Index was up 1.6%.

The Dow and the Nasdaq both swung back into positive territory for the year, while the S&P now boasts a gain of 2.9%. Volume also perked up, with more than 1.4 billion shares trading on the

New York Stock Exchange

and more than 1.8 billion shares changing hands on the Nasdaq. Advancers held about a 2-to-1 majority over decliners on both markets.

In other markets, the 10-year Treasury note traded up 5/32, yielding 4.70%, while the dollar was lower against the yen and euro. Oil prices went down, with the benchmark crude closing 68 cents lower, or 2%, at $37.57 on the Nymex.

"These late-day rallies point to a market that is ready to move to a higher trading range," said Peter Cardillo, chief market analyst with S.W. Bach & Co. "I think the market is putting some of its worries on the backburner in expectations of some a good GDP number, durable good orders, and jobless claims."

After several sessions with little or no economic news, the data stream will start flowing again Thursday morning. At 8:30 a.m. EDT, the government is expected to report a 1.5% increase in orders for durable goods received by manufacturers in May, up from the 2.9% decrease logged for April. Also, the Labor Department is expected to say that weekly initial jobless claims ticked up by 4,000 in the week ended June 19, to 340,000.

The biggest economic news of the week will be final revisions to first-quarter GDP figures due out Friday morning. Economists on Wall Street expect the preliminary reading of annualized growth for the U.S. economy of 4.4% to be revised up to 4.5%.

The anticipated string of positive economic news could set a bullish tone for the run-up to the June 30 decision on official interest rates and the hand-over of power in Iraq. These two simultaneous events are widely viewed as the catalyst that the markets have been waiting for to break out of their doldrums and make a move one way or the other.

"What's happening in the market right now is a stand-off between the really ugly news coming out of the Middle East, the prisoner-abuse scandal being the ugliest, and the incredibly good news coming out the global economy and corporate America," said Mike Holland, chairman of Holland & Co. "I think the market will take a direction after June 30, depending in large part on the psychological atmosphere going towards the end of the year with respect to the Middle East."

Wednesday afternoon's action largely mirrored Tuesday's, when stocks caught a late-session bid amid relatively solid volume, despite news that a South Korean hostage was beheaded by an Iraqi militant group.

Richard Dickson, senior strategist at Lowry's Reports, said he believes the market eventually will turn its strength into a sustained move to the upside. He noted several signs of longer-term strength developing, including that of the 51 industry groups followed by Lowry's, 29 are at rally highs or close to rally highs. "That's not the kind of underlying action you would expect to see in a market that is about to collapse," he said.

Dickson also said the current spread between buying power and selling pressure is the most positive he has seen in more than a year. "We also just made a new rally high in the buying power index," he said. "So you are seeing some growth in demand and a continuing shrinkage in supply, and that's a positive for the market.

In corporate news Wednesday, the Federal Trade Commission has cleared

R.J. Reynolds'

( RJR) takeover of

British American Tobacco's

(BTI) - Get Report

Brown & Williamson unit for $3 billion. RJR closed up $2.43, or 3.7%, to $68.33.

Shares of


(FDX) - Get Report

rose $1.62, or 2.1%, to $80.05 after the shipper reported strong earnings and a bullish forecast for 2005. It posted fourth-quarter profits of $412 million, or $1.36 a share, up 47% from the year-ago $280 million, or 92 cents a share. Going forward, FedEx said first-quarter earnings would come in between 90 cents and $1 a share, much higher than the 80 cents a share expected by Wall Street.


(WMT) - Get Report

shares weighed heavily on the Dow after a federal judge approved a class-action sex-discrimination lawsuit against the discount retail giant. The stock finished down 51 cents, or 0.9%, to $53.55.

Career Education

(CECO) - Get Report

was getting crushed for a second time in a week after saying it had received a formal order of investigation from the

Securities and Exchange Commission

. The Illinois-based college operator has been grappling with allegations of record-keeping irregularities at several of its schools, charges it has repeatedly denied. Its shares closed down $14.47, or 24.7%, to $44.11.

Tech investors also had an eye on


(CRM) - Get Report

Wednesday, which closed up $6.20, or 56.4%, to $17.20 after underwriters

priced its 10 million-share initial offering at $11 apiece -- a dollar above the high end of its expected range. The company sells an online package of marketing information programs that has threatened the pre-eminence of industry leader


( SEBL). Besides


, the deal was the most widely anticipated tech IPO of the year.

Overseas markets closed flat to higher, with London's FTSE 100 up 0.4% to 4487 and Germany's Xetra DAX up 0.4% to 3945. In Asia, Japan's Nikkei ended virtually unchanged at 11,581, while Hong Kong's Hang Seng was also little changed at 11,850.

Earnings releases scheduled before Thursday's opening bell include

Rite Aid

(RAD) - Get Report


Family Dollar


, and

A.G. Edwards

( AGE).

In other economic news due out Thursday, the government is expected to report at 10:00 a.m. EDT that new home sales jumped to an annualized 1.137 million in May, up from April's 1.093 million, and the Conference Board will release the May results for its Help Wanted Index, a measure of employment opportunities advertised in the media. The index is expected to rise 2 points to 40.