Two weeks of declines had traders thinking the holidays would be blue (or red, as in the color of declining shares on computer terminals) this year. So in keeping with its historic trait of doing the opposite of what's expected by the majority of participants, the stock market began this week with some healthy gains. Rather than continuing recent declines, major stock proxies opened higher and were able to build on those gains as the afternoon arrived. As of 2:27 p.m. EST, the Dow Jones Industrial Average was up 1.8% to 8582.76, the S&P 500 was higher by 1.8% to 905.48 and the Nasdaq Composite was up 2.1% to 1390.59. Factors aiding the midday advance included strong gains by European bourses. Ian Scott, head of European equity strategy at Lehman Brothers, upped his recommended weighting in U.S. equities to 50% from 39%, and Merrill Lynch added Hewlett-Packard ( HPQ) to its Focus One list. Peter Oppenheimer, European equity strategist at Goldman Sachs, also made some bullish comments about U.S. equities. Crude prices continue to surge, which ultimately will hamper the global economy. But for now, crude's rise was giving a boost to market-cap giants such as ExxonMobil ( XOM), which was further supporting major stock proxies. Other factors helping shares were more technical in nature, including that recent weakness in the dollar and stocks that had become overextended, both of which were due for a rebound. After trading above 104.20 earlier, the U.S. Dollar Index was lately unchanged at 103.98. On a more emotional basis, the New York transit workers calling off (or at least postponing) the strike originally planned for midnight Monday may also be helping buoy spirits on Wall Street. New York is not the be-all, end-all of the financial markets, of course. But major equity exchanges are based in Manhattan, and concerns about a potential strike may have weighed more heavily on sentiment late last week than was generally acknowledged -- here included.