Dow Closes Above 12,000 for First Time Since June 2008

Stocks shrugged off instability in Egypt to rally to a two-and-a-half year high Tuesday, boosted by encouraging economic data and better-than-expected corporate earnings.

The blue-chip Dow Jones Industrial Average ($INDU) jumped 146 points, or 1.2%, to close at 12,039, a level last seen in June 2008. The broader S&P 500 ($INX) gained 21 points, or 1.7%, to close at 1,308. The tech-heavy Nasdaq Composite ($COMPX) gained 51 points, or 1.9%, to finish at 2,751.

In the latest indication the U.S. economy is gaining steam, factory orders rose at their fastest pace in seven years in January, the Institute for Supply Management said Tuesday. Consumers are spending more on autos, appliances and other goods, while businesses have invested in more industrial machinery and computers. Last month's reading on manufacturing activity was the highest since May 2004.

Encouraging News

Also fueling the rosier outlook on economic growth, United Parcel Service (UPS) posted better-than-expected fourth-quarter earnings. As the the world's biggest parcel and package delivery company, UPS is seen as a bellwether for global economic activity.

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In other encouraging earnings news, Dow component Pfizer (PFE) said its fourth-quarter profit more than tripled from a year earlier. The drugmaker also pleased the Street by committing to cut research costs and shift billions in saving to buying back stock -- even as it joined other pharma companies in issuing a cautious outlook. Separately, global seed company Archer Daniels Midland (ADM) also posted better-than-expected fiscal second-quarter earnings and revenue.

The promising manufacturing and earnings news allowed commodities stocks to soar. Basic materials were the best performing of the S&P 500's 10 major sectors, rallying more than 2.8%. Financials and energy stocks were also strong, boosted by Bank of America (BAC) and ExxonMobil (XOM).

The flight to riskier assets led to declines in safer havens such as the dollar and Treasurys. The U.S. Dollar Index, which measures the greenback against a trade-weighted basket of six major currencies, fell nearly 1%, a large move in currency terms. Bonds sold off, pushing their yields higher. The yield on the benchmark 10-year Treasury note jumped to 3.44% from a prior close of 3.38%

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