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US: Banks and tech drive Wall Street up over 1%

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[SAN FRANCISCO] Wall Street surged more than one per cent on Tuesday and the Nasdaq had its strongest day in three months as investors made peace with the possibility that the US Federal Reserve might soon raise interest rates.

Comments from policymakers in recent days have investors expecting a rate hike potentially in June, much sooner than previously thought, given sluggish economic growth.

Wall Street has benefited from historically low borrowing costs since the 2008 financial crisis and higher rates could choke further gains. But strategists on Tuesday said they were reassured by expectations the Fed would tighten borrowing costs only gradually.

"The market is starting to contemplate the idea that Fed rate hikes this year are A: more likely, and B: not inherently bad in and of themselves," said Bill Merz, an investment strategist with US Bank Wealth Management.

Shares rose in the banking sector, which stands to gain from higher interest rates. Bank of America, Citigroup and JPMorgan all rose more than 1.4 per cent.

Microsoft jumped 3.12 per cent and provided the biggest boost to the Nasdaq and S&P 500, while 3M Co's 1.52 per cent rise lifted the Dow.

It was the strongest session since March 1 for the Nasdaq Composite and since March 11 for the S&P 500. So far in 2016, the S&P 500 is up about 2 per cent and the Nasdaq is down 3 per cent.

Data on Tuesday showed new US single-family home sales surged to a more than eight-year high in April and prices hit a record high, offering further evidence of a pick-up in economic growth.

The Dow Jones industrial average jumped 1.22 per cent to end at 17,706.05 and the S&P 500 rallied 1.37 per cent to 2,076.06. The Nasdaq Composite surged 2 per cent to 4,861.06.

Gains were broad-based, with all 10 S&P sectors rising and the tech sector up 2.12 per cent.

Late in the day, oil prices extended gains in post-settlement trading after data showed a much bigger-than-expected reduction in US crude inventories.

Also after the bell, Hewlett Packard Enterprise jumped 9.6 per cent after it said it would spin off its Enterprise Services business and merge it with Computer Sciences Corp, which surged 25 per cent.

During the session, Homebuilder Toll Brothers jumped 8.71 per cent after quarterly revenue beat expectations.

Twitter fell 2.64 per cent after brokerage MoffettNathanson downgraded the company's stock to "sell" from "neutral".

About 6.9 billion shares changed hands on US exchanges, below the 7.2 billion daily average for the past 20 trading days, according to Thomson Reuters data.

Advancing issues outnumbered decliners on the NYSE by 2,324 to 701. On the Nasdaq, 2,210 issues rose and 603 fell.

The S&P 500 index showed 29 new 52-week highs and one new low, while the Nasdaq recorded 87 new highs and 29 new lows.

REUTERS