Stocks not only notched a second solid day of gains, but also showed improvement on the technical side Wednesday as the major indices closed near their highs for the day and breadth was strongly positive. That ought to cheer technicians who questioned Tuesday's jump, which was accompanied by weaker breadth and a late-day selloff. On Wednesday, advancers bested decliners by more than 2 to 1 in both Big Board and Nasdaq trading, amid solid volume of 1.6 billion and 2.1 billion, respectively, while up volume exceeded 68% of the total on both. From that perspective, Wednesday's action was better than Tuesday's even if gains by blue-chip averages weren't as big. The Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 0.4% to 10,498.59, the S&P 500 rose 0.5% to 1174.07 and the Nasdaq Composite rallied 1.3%. to 2046.09. The action seemed to justify the optimism expressed Wednesday morning by RealMoney.com contributor Helene Meisler, who saw signs of strength Tuesday where others saw nothing new. "None of this is bell-ringing stuff, but the market isn't always about bell-ringing," she wrote. "The sand is shifting toward too many bears and better statistics. I still don't believe we've gotten there yet, but we continue to head in the direction of a better trading bottom." Among sectors that hit a bottom and bounced the last two days, airlines was among the strongest performers. The Amex Airline Index gained 1.6% on Wednesday and almost 5% on Tuesday after it had lost 27% in the first three weeks of 2005. The reversal came as oil sold off and Delta ( DAL) announced plans to increase flights on its low-fare carrier. On Tuesday, Airtran ( AAI) reported a 1-cent-a-share of profit instead of a large loss while J.P. Morgan put out a bullish note on Continental ( CAL). But the biggest reason for the move was perhaps better summed up by Prudential Equity Group analyst Bob McAdoo's contrarian take: "Things are bad -- so bad that they can't go on forever like this." He recommends overweighting Continental, American ( AMR), Northwest ( NWAC) and Southwest ( LUV) and underweighting Delta.