Wall Street opens higher but indexes set for worst quarter since 2011

NEW YORK (REUTERS) - Wall Street was sharply higher on Wednesday, helped by gains in technology stocks, but the three major indexes were set for their worst quarter since 2011.

The third quarter was rocked by highly volatile trading due to fears of slowing growth in China. Adding to the uncertainty, the U.S. Federal Reserve held off on raising rates at its September meeting.

Investors will be keen to put the bruising quarter behind them and look ahead to the third-quarter earnings season, which begins next week.

Data on Wednesday showed that the U.S. private sector added more jobs than expected in September, raising hopes of a strong reading in the government's payrolls report due Friday.

The Fed has said it needs to see more improvement in the labor market and be confident that inflation will increase before raising rates for the first time since 2006. Inflation remains below the Fed's 2 per cent target.

Investors will look for clues on the timing of a rate hike when Fed Chair Janet Yellen and St. Louis Fed President James Bullard speak at a conference in St. Louis later on Wednesday.

Yellen said last week the central bank remained on track to raise rates this year. The Fed meets next on Oct. 27-28. "The market is in a relief rally after five days of selloff and as investors rebalance their portfolios," said Art Hogan, chief market strategist at Wunderlich Securities in New York.

For stocks to rally in the fourth quarter, investors need more clarity from the Fed regarding interest rates and signs of improvement in China's economy, Hogan said.

The global economy, however, is expected to remain weak in the near term. IMF head Christine Lagarde said on Wednesday a relentless deceleration in the economies of the developing world would cause global growth to slow this year.

At 11:02 a.m. ET (1102 pm Singapore time), the Dow Jones industrial average was up 195.36 points, or 1.22 per cent, at 16,244.49, the S&P 500 was up 25.59 points, or 1.36 per cent, at 1,909.68 and the Nasdaq composite was up 75.29 points, or 1.67 per cent, at 4,592.61.

Apple's 1.9 per cent gain provided the biggest boost to the S&P and the Nasdaq.

All 10 major S&P sectors were higher, with the consumer discretionary index's 1.98 per cent rise leading the advancers.

The Nasdaq biotechnology index was up 3.3 per cent as investors continued to seek bargains in the sector, which took a beating after Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton criticized drug pricing last week.

Although the market's recent rout has forced many strategists to slash year-end expectations, a Reuters poll shows the S&P 500 is expected to end 2015 roughly 11 per cent above current levels.

Shares of Ralph Lauren were up 12.8 per cent at $117.46 after the fashion powerhouse said its founder and CEO was stepping down and being replaced by the head of Gap's Old Navy division. Gap was down 6.7 per cent at $28.21.

Western Digital jumped 14.6 per cent to $79.47 after the data storage company said it would receive a $3.78 billion investment from Chinese infotech company Unisplendour. Rival Seagate rose 4.6 per cent to $43.71.

Advancing issues outnumbered decliners on the NYSE by 2,345 to 571. On the Nasdaq, 1,910 issues rose and 686 fell.

The S&P 500 index showed two new 52-week highs and four new lows, while the Nasdaq recorded 15 new highs and 79 new lows.