US STOCKS-Wall St jumps with energy shares as oil rallies
* Staples, Office Depot in advanced merger talks - WSJ
* Strong auto sales add to bullish sentiment
* Indexes up: Dow 1.4 pct, S&P 0.9 pct, Nasdaq 0.5 pct (Updates to afternoon, changes byline)
By Caroline Valetkevitch
NEW YORK, Feb 3 (Reuters) - U.S. stocks jumped on Tuesday, led by gains in energy shares as oil prices extended their recent rally, while higher-than-expected January car sales added to the upbeat tone.
Merger activity also helped equities, with shares of Office Depot jumping 19.9 percent after the Wall Street Journal reported it was in advanced talks to merge with Staples Inc . Staples shares jumped 10.5 percent.
The S&P 500 is up about 2 percent over the past two sessions after suffering its biggest monthly drop in a year in January, but the index remains locked in its trading range of only about 120 points since mid-December and is down 0.9 percent since the start of 2015.
The year so far has been marked by days of high volatility, with the S&P 500's trading range often more than double its average over the past year.
U.S. crude oil prices rose 7 percent to settle at $53.05 . Brent and U.S. oil prices have risen roughly 19 percent since Wednesday's close. The S&P 500 energy index was up 2.3 percent on the day. Shares of Exxon Mobil were up 2.8 percent, while Chevron was up 3.4 percent. Continuación...