NEW YORK — Wall Street got the news it wanted on the economy's biggest problems — banks and housing — and celebrated by hurtling the Dow Jones industrials up 497.48 points, to 7,775.86.

NEW YORK — Wall Street got the news it wanted on the economy's biggest problems — banks and housing — and celebrated by hurtling the Dow Jones industrials up 497.48 points, to 7,775.86.

Investors added rocket fuel Monday to a two-week-old advance, cheering the government's plan to help banks remove bad assets from their books and also welcoming a report showing a surprising increase in home sales. Major stock indicators surged about 7 percent, including the Dow, which had its biggest percentage gain since October.

Analysts who have seen the market's recent false starts are still hesitant to say Wall Street is indeed recovering from the collapse that began last fall. But the day's banking and housing news bolstered the growing belief that the economy is starting to heal, and that is what had investors buying.

"It's just hard to argue that there isn't an improvement in economic activity on the horizon," said Jim Dunigan, executive vice president at PNC Wealth Management.

The market began turning around two weeks ago on news that Citigroup Inc. was operating at a profit in January and February. A spate of more upbeat economic reports helped the market build on its gains, although the rally stalled last Thursday and Friday.

Analysts said they saw more fundamental strength in Monday's buying than they saw at the start of the rally. Dave Rovelli, managing director of trading at the brokerage Canaccord Adams, said there appeared to be less short covering, which occurs when traders are forced to buy to cover misplaced bets that stocks would fall. Short covering contributed to the market's surge after the Citigroup news.

"There is definitely new buying," he said. Rovelli also said the approaching end of the quarter can make money managers eager to buy into a market to make the statements they send to clients look stronger.

Stocks shot higher at the opening and kept going. The Treasury Department said its bad asset cleanup program would tap money from the government's $700 billion financial rescue fund and involve help from the Federal Reserve, the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. and the participation of private investors.

The market had been waiting for weeks to hear details of the government's plan for helping banks get rid of bad assets. Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner announced an outline of the program last month but provided few details then about how it would work, leading to a stock plunge that sliced 380 points from the Dow.

But while analysts were pleased with the market's performance Monday, they were also still cautious; Wall Street more than gave back its big yearend rally and continued falling during January and February.