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U.S. stocks were still on track to record a second-straight day of gains but were off their highs Tuesday afternoon, as equities tracked oil prices closely. A jump in crude oil prices delivered a fillip to energy shares, while upbeat car sales, merger activity ad positive developments in Greece’s debt negotiations also boosted confidence.

Market reaction to weaker-than-expected factory orders was muted, as markets shrugged off a report indicating that manufacturing activity had slowed down in December. Factory orders fell 3.4% in December in fifth straight decline.

The S&P 500 (SPX) was higher, with eight of 10 main sectors trading higher. Energy sector stocks led the gains, boosted by a big jump in oil prices. The mood on Wall Street was optimistic with cyclical stocks outperforming defensive sectors. Small-cap stocks rallied, with Russell 2,000 (RUT) up 0.9%.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJI) jumped to a triple-digit-gain, and was up more than 160 points, at last check, with nearly all of its 30 members trading higher.

The Nasdaq Composite (RIXF) dipped in and out of negative territory, but at last check was up 5.4 points.

Martin Leclerc, chief investment officer and portfolio manager at Barrack Yard Advisors, attributed volatility that has whipsawed stocks to investors trying to figure out whether to be risky or risk averse in their investing strategies.

“While indexes are relatively robust, individual stocks are not doing as well. There are more stocks that are down 10% than up 10%, for example. But that does not mean this bull market is about to end,” Leclerc said.

“We expect markets to get more ‘speculatively’ higher before seeing a big correction, given there is still a lot of central bank liquidity,” he added.

Global central-bank easing was a theme for Tuesday. Australia stocks hit a seven-year high after the Reserve Bank of Australia surprised markets by cutting rates to a record low.

“With yet another central bank cutting rates, the case for additional upside in equities remains intact,” said Brenda Kelly, chief market strategist at IG, in emailed comments. “Add to this the bounce in oil prices and we have some additional enthusiasm for risk assets.”

Late news that Greece has offered a debt-swap plan in a bid to end a standoff with its European partners boosted European equities. The Athens Composite Index shot up nearly 9%, driving a 1.2% gain for the Stoxx Europe 600 index .

Oil prices were up again Tuesday, moving about 3% higher for WTI crude (CLH5) sending prices above $51 a barrel.

Henrik Drusebjerg, chief strategist at Carnegie Investment Bank, said with nearly all the big central banks easing monetary policy in 2015, the big question is when will the Federal Reserve start hiking.

That uncertainty will make for much more volatile markets than investors have been used to in the last couple of years, he said. J.P. Morgan Cazenove analysts said in a note Monday that bank analysts are still far too bullish on stocks.

“U.S. equities and the U.S. dollar specifically are pretty much the most crowded trades these days, but then again it’s the only economy with real growth,” said Drusebjerg. “It’s likely U.S. companies are capable of increasing earnings through 2015.”

Aetna, UPS and automobile sales: Chrysler, Ford Motor Co. , General Motors Co. and Nissan Motor Co. all posted double-digit increases for January car sales, as lower oil prices spurred demand for sport-utility vehicles and trucks. Shares of both Ford and GM rose more than 2%.

AutoNation Inc. (AN)(AN) surged 8% after sales climbed double digits.

Shares of Staples Inc.(SPLS) and Office Depot Inc.(ODP) shot up 11% and 18%, respectively, after a Wall Street Journal report that the two are in advanced talks to merge, citing people characterized as close to the matter.

Shares of Lending Club Corp. (LC) soared 5% after the announcement of a deal with Alibaba Group Holding Ltd.(TICKER:BABA) to provide sales financing to small businesses buying from Chinese suppliers.

Earnings from Chipotle Mexican Grill Inc. (CMG), Gilead Sciences Inc. (GILD) and Walt Disney Co. (DIS) are expected after the close.

RadioShack Corp. could see pressure after the New York Stock Exchange said it would move to delist the stock, and a Wall Street Journal report said the company was aiming to file for Chapter 11 protection soon. Meanwhile, Inc.(AMZN) could be interested in buying some of RadioShack’s 4,000 locations, Bloomberg reported, citing sources.