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US: Stocks hold up even as oil touches below US$30

US stocks opened slightly higher on Thursday as oil prices rose and JPMorgan's strong results boosted bank stocks.

[NEW YORK] US stocks held onto early gains Tuesday despite a bout of mid-session selling pressure when oil prices dipped below US$30 a barrel for the first time since 2003.

Stabilization in China's markets, including a firming of the yuan, sparked buying both in Europe and on Wall Street, after the worst opening week for a new year in history.

At the close the Dow Jones Industrial Average was up 117.65 points (0.72 per cent) at 16,516.22.

The broad-market S&P 500 advanced 15.01 (0.78 per cent) to 1,938.68, while the tech-rich Nasdaq Composite surged 47.93 (1.03 per cent) to 4,685.92.

Large tech stocks, at the core of the selloff last week, led the rebound.

"We've been waiting for a tech bounce for some time," said David Levy of Kenjol Capital Management.

Alibaba led the climb higher with a 4.0 per cent gain, with Intel adding 1.9 per cent and Apple 1.5 per cent.

Oil industry shares were mixed despite another drop in crude prices. ExxonMobil surprised with a 2.0 per cent gain and Chevron added 1.7 per cent.

But oilfield services companies slipped, with Schlumberger down 0.2 per cent and Halliburton 0.4 per cent.

Other leaders included UnitedHealth Group, up 2.4 per cent, and Wells Fargo bank, 2.7 per cent.

Meanwhile shares of the largest US coal miner, Peabody Energy, plunged for a second straight day after the number-two miner Arch Coal filed for bankruptcy protection.

Peabody shares lost 16.0 per cent to US$4.48 - compared with US$100 a share a year ago - amid worries its heavy debt load and sinking coal demand could force it to seek protection as well.

Markets remained clearly on edge as fourth-quarter earnings season opens.

Levy said traders were "still feeling very uncertain as far as where we go from here." "We remain very guarded in our outlook for stocks going forward at the time being."