The Nasdaq snapped an eight-session losing streak, with the Nasdaq Biotech Index <.NBI> rebounding late, also breaking an eight-day run of losses. The biotech index, among the hardest-hit in this year's selloff, ended up 1.5 percent.
Crude oil prices ended lower after another roller-coaster session, but the S&P 500 energy index <.SPNY> reversed course to end up 0.4 percent, while shares of Exxon Mobil (>> Exxon Mobil Corporation) jumped 2 percent to $75.20 and Chevron (>> Chevron Corporation) rose 1.7 percent to $82.15.
Technical indicators also suggested a rebound was in order, even if it is just short-lived, analysts said.
"This looks to me like a technical bounce. The market's very oversold," said Bruce Zaro, chief technical strategist at Bolton Global Asset Management in Boston.
"Until investors can fundamentally get their heads around oil at this price, the market will react to oil and China."
Stocks had their worst five-day start to a year ever following mounting investor concerns about declining oil prices and a China-led slowdown in global growth.
The Dow Jones industrial average <.DJI> on Tuesday was up 117.65 points, or 0.72 percent, to 16,516.22, the S&P 500 <.SPX> gained 15.01 points, or 0.78 percent, to 1,938.68 and the Nasdaq Composite <.IXIC> added 47.93 points, or 1.03 percent, to 4,685.92.
Apple (>> Apple Inc.) ended up 1.5 percent at $99.96 after Bank of America Merrill Lynch analysts upgraded their rating on the stock, while Intel (>> Intel Corporation) rose 1.9 percent to $32.68 after J.P. Morgan gave upbeat comments on the stock.
Shares of Alcoa (>> Alcoa Inc) dropped 9 percent to $7.28, a day after it posted a quarterly net loss.
Health insurer Anthem Inc (>> Anthem Inc) finished up 5.6 percent at $135.60 per share after it gave a profit forecast. It boosted shares of other health insurers, including UnitedHealth (>> UnitedHealth Group Inc), which gained 2.4 percent to $112.26.
After the bell, shares of Ford Motor (>> Ford Motor Company) fell 3.1 percent to $12.45 after it forecast results, while MetLife (>> Metlife Inc) gained 7.6 percent to $45.19 after it said it plans to separate a substantial portion of its U.S. retail business.
Earnings for all S&P 500 companies are forecast to have declined 4.7 percent in the fourth quarter from a year earlier, according to Thomson Reuters data. It would be the second straight quarterly profit decline for S&P 500 companies.
Volume remained heavy. About 9.0 billion shares changed hands on U.S. exchanges, above the 7.5 billion daily average for the past 20 trading days, according to Thomson Reuters data.
Declining issues outnumbered advancing ones on the NYSE by 1,600 to 1,470, for a 1.09-to-1 ratio on the downside; on the Nasdaq, 1,417 issues rose and 1,412 fell for a 1-to-1 ratio favoring advancers.
The S&P 500 posted no new 52-week highs and 62 new lows; the Nasdaq recorded 12 new highs and 323 new lows.
(Editing by Nick Zieminski and Chris Reese)
By Caroline Valetkevitch