Wall Street finished a back-and-forth session sharply higher Wednesday as investors sought bargains while contending with concerns about...

Share story

NEW YORK — Wall Street finished a back-and-forth session sharply higher Wednesday as investors sought bargains while contending with concerns about the strength of the economy and upcoming corporate results.

The Nasdaq composite index showed its first gain in nine sessions, and the Dow Jones industrial average gained more than 200 points in the final 90 minutes of the session. The Dow closed up 146.24 at 12,735.31.

The Standard & Poor’s 500 index rose 18.94 to 1,409.13, and the Nasdaq composite index finished up 34.04 at 2,474.55.

The gains at the end of a fractious session came ahead of a fourth-quarter report from Alcoa, which marked the unofficial start of earnings season.

Unease about the economy has caused intense market volatility since the start of the year, with stocks rising on hopes for more interest-rate cuts, and plunging as investors doubt that will be enough. The market is also worried about how fallout from the mortgage and credit crisis has affected corporate earnings.

A prediction of a recession in 2008 by Goldman Sachs, Wall Street’s biggest investment bank, also appeared to weigh on investors.

Jennifer Ellison, principal with wealth-management firm Bingham, Osborn & Scarborough in San Francisco, said the market’s rebound was gratifying. “I think it’s a good sign that it ended on a positive note rather than starting positive and ending negative,” she said. “That’s particularly significant coming on the heels of the Goldman report.”

She expects, however, that volatility will remain as investors pounce on the latest signals about the economy.