NEW YORK -- Encouraging signs out of Europe and a surprisingly strong report on the U.S. housing market drove the Dow Jones industrial average up more than 300 points Tuesday. It was the best day for stocks this month.

The Spanish government had a successful debt auction, and gauges of business and consumer confidence in Germany rose unexpectedly. Both helped ease debt crisis worries.

The Commerce Department reported builders broke ground on 685,000 new homes last month, a 9.3 percent jump from October. That's the highest level since April 2010. Building permits, a gauge of future construction, increased 5.7 percent, spurred by a jump in apartment permits.

Analysts called the surge in housing construction further evidence the U.S. will avoid slipping into another recession soon.

--The Dow gained 337.32 points, or 2.9 percent, to close at 12,103.58. It lost 100 points the day before.

--The Standard & Poor's 500 index gained 35.95 points, or 3 percent, to 1,241.30. Six stocks in the index fell.

--The Nasdaq composite index rose 80.59, or 3.2 percent, to 2,603.73.

TWL Precision to expand, add 35 jobs in N. Charleston

TWL Precision, a worldwide supplier of precision automotive components, will expand its operations in Palmetto Commerce Park and create 35 jobs through a $5 million investment.

The expansion will double the company's current manufacturing space and is expected to be completed by the third quarter of 2012, bringing its work force to 90. The North Charleston firm will begin hiring for the new jobs in the second half of 2012. TWL Precision Inc. contracts with local staffing agencies to recruit employees.

First South Carolina-built Dreamliner gets its wheels

The first Dreamliner to be assembled in South Carolina is now on wheels.

The Boeing 787 was lowered onto its landing gear and pulled forward to its final position in the centerpiece building at the North Charleston campus Sunday, Boeing said Tuesday.

Crews will install the composite jet's electrical, hydraulic and mechanical systems as well as its engines and interior over the next several weeks, according to the news release.

Boeing's South Carolina operation will be mostly dormant from Friday through the end of the year, but the plane is still on schedule to be delivered in the second quarter of next year, said a company spokeswoman.

ConAgra 2nd-quarter net income beats expectations

ATLANTA -- Food maker ConAgra Foods Inc. on Tuesday reported fiscal second-quarter net income fell 15 percent, but results beat expectations as the company raised prices to offset continuing higher prices.

ConAgra, like many food companies, is dealing with higher costs for ingredients, packaging and fuel and has raised its prices to offset those increases. The maker of Slim Jim, Chef Boyardee, Banquet, Hunt's, Marie Callender's and Orville Redenbacher's saw shares rise $1.02, or 4.05 percent, to $26.19, Tuesday.

Talbots rejects Sycamore's $205.2M buyout offer

HINGHAM, Mass. -- Women's clothing chain Talbots Inc. rejected an approximately $205.2 million buyout offer from its biggest shareholder on Tuesday, saying the bid undervalues the company, and announced it would explore strategic options.

The announcement was met favorably by investors, who sent the retailer's stock up 5 cents, or 1.89 percent, to $2.69 Tuesday. Private equity firm Sycamore Partners offered to buy Talbots for $3 per share earlier this month. Sycamore has a 9.9 percent stake in the Hingham, Mass., company.

Talbots runs 551 stores in 46 states and Canada, including those in Charleston, Mount Pleasant and North Charleston.