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US stocks stage late rally to counteract euro fears

US stocks staged a furious late-day rally yesterday to push the S&P 500 into positive territory as the focus shifted from European debt woes to buying after shares hit six-month lows.

Major US indexes had fallen more than three per cent early in the session. The morning’s action reflected the market’s nervousness as the S&P 500 fell through the 6 May “flash crash” level to its lowest level since early November 2009, down 14.5 per cent from its late April closing high.

The Dow Jones industrial average dropped 22.82 points, or 0.23 per cent, to 10,043.75. But the Standard & Poor’s 500 Index gained just 0.38 point, or 0.04 per cent, to end at 1,074.03. The Nasdaq Composite Index shed 2.60 points, or 0.12 per cent, to 2,210.95.

Shares of materials companies and retailers were among the top performers, with the S&P Materials Index up 1.6 per cent and the S&P Retail Index finishing up 1.4 per cent.

AK Steel jumped 11.4 per cent to $15.06 after a Citigroup upgrade while AutoZone advanced 5.6 percent to $194.57 after posting third-quarter earnings.

The CBOE Volatility Index, known as Wall Street’s fear gauge, fell 9.7 per cent to 34.61 after reaching an earlier high of 43.74 -- a gain of 14.1 per cent.

US consumer confidence rose for the third straight month to the highest in more than two years.