US STOCKS-Wall St posts 2nd day of strong gains, led by energy
* Staples, Office Depot in advanced merger talks - WSJ
* Strong auto sales add to bullish sentiment
* Indexes up: Dow 1.8 pct, S&P 1.4 pct, Nasdaq 1.1 pct (Updates to close)
By Caroline Valetkevitch
NEW YORK, Feb 3 (Reuters) - U.S. stocks jumped more than 1 percent on Tuesday, led by energy shares as oil prices extended their recent rally, while higher-than-expected January car sales also bolstered the advance.
Merger activity also helped, with shares of Office Depot jumping 21.6 percent to $9.28 after the Wall Street Journal reported the retailer was in advanced talks to merge with Staples Inc. Staples shares gained 10.9 percent to $19.01.
The S&P 500 has gained 2.8 percent over two sessions as the bounceback in oil prices and hopes of a Greek debt deal eased some concerns about the global economy, but the index has been locked in a trading range of 1,972 to 2,093 since mid-December and is nearly flat since Dec. 31.
The year so far has been marked by volatility, with the S&P 500's daily 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 climbed 2.8 percent. Continuación...