NEW YORK — Stocks started December with a jump. The Dow Jones industrial average rose 249 points Wednesday, its biggest one-day gain since Sept. 1 and the sixth-largest this year.
An encouraging employment report and hopes that Europe's debt crisis may ease boosted major indexes on Wednesday, erasing nearly two weeks of losses. Bond prices and the dollar fell as investors moved money into riskier assets.
Signs that the U.S. job market thawed in November jump-started the gains. ADP Employer Services, a payroll company, said small businesses added the largest number of workers in three years last month, well ahead of what analysts had forecast.
Greg Walker, a global investment strategist at J.P. Morgan Private Bank, said the ADP report gave traders confidence that the overall U.S. employment rate will fall. The Labor Department will release the November unemployment rate Friday morning.
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More encouraging news followed throughout the day. The Institute of Supply Management said its index of manufacturing activity rose in November for the 16th month. The Federal Reserve then said the U.S. economy improved in 10 of the Fed's 12 regions. Only the Philadelphia and St. Louis regions reported mixed economic conditions.
The Dow Jones industrial average rose 249.76, or 2.3 percent, to 11,255.78.
Even with Wednesday's gains, the Dow is still 1.6 percent below its Nov. 5 close. The index is up 7.9 percent so far this year.
The Standard & Poor's 500 index rose 25.52, or 2.2 percent, to 1,206.07. The Nasdaq composite rose 51.20, or 2.1 percent, to 2,549.43.