By Angela Moon
NEW YORK, May 21 (Reuters) - U.S. stocks rose on Tuesday, with the Dow and the S&P 500 closing at new all-time highs as Federal Reserve officials' comments eased some concerns that the central bank could start reducing its stimulus program.
Dow component Home Depot (HD) gave the market a lift after the world's largest home improvement chain raised its profit outlook, driving its stock to a record intraday high.
JPMorgan (JPM) also bolstered the Dow, rising more than 1 percent to a 52-week high after the bank's chief executive won a vote of confidence from shareholders.
Stocks extended gains in afternoon trade after New York Fed President William Dudley said he cannot be sure whether policymakers will next reduce or increase the amount of purchases, due to the "uncertain" economic outlook.
Earlier, James Bullard, president of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis, had urged the European Central Bank to consider employing a U.S.-style quantitative easing program to counter slowing inflation and recession in the euro zone.
"There's been increasing concerns that the time has come for the Fed to take some of the stimulus out of this market, especially with stocks at these levels. What we heard from the Fed officials today basically gave a temporary additional shot to the market," said Rick Meckler, president of hedge fund LibertyView Capital Management LLC in Jersey City, New Jersey.
"But there is only so much you can move from the low interest-rate policy," Meckler said. "It has got to translate into economic news or earnings news and that's why the market has remained largely unchanged."
The Fed's $85 billion-per-month bond buying program has played a significant role in the market's rally and investors have recently become nervous over when the central bank will alter or halt the program.
The Dow Jones industrial average (^DJI) gained 52.30 points, or 0.34 percent, to end at a record 15,387.58. The Standard & Poor's 500 Index (^GSPC) added 2.87 points, or 0.17 percent, to finish at a record 1,669.16. The Nasdaq Composite Index (COMPX) advanced 5.69 points, or 0.16 percent, to close at 3,502.12 -- its highest close since October 2000.
The Dow climbed to an all-time intraday high at 15,434.50, while the S&P 500 hit a record intraday high at 1,674.93.
The Nasdaq set a fresh 52-week high at 3,512.15.
After a rally of about 17 percent for the major U.S. stock indexes since the start of the year, investors are trying to assess how much further equities can run.
Goldman Sachs (GS) said in a note to clients dated May 20 that it sees the S&P 500 at 1,750 by the end of the year -- up 5 percent from Monday's close -- and expects a 12-month rally to 1,825.
The bank's economists forecast above-trend growth in U.S. gross domestic product in 2014 - for the first time in six years.
The small- and mid-cap Russell 2000 (IWM) continued to face technical resistance at the 1,000-point level, but the index hovered around its all-time closing high.
The housing market's recovery helped Home Depot report higher quarterly sales and earnings, prompting the world's largest home improvement chain to raise its sales outlook for the year. Home Depot was the Dow's second-biggest percentage gainer, rising 2.5 percent to close at $78.71 after hitting an intraday record high of $79.46.
JPMorgan Chase & Co shareholders voted to allow CEO Jamie Dimon to keep his chairman title, sending the bank's shares up 1.4 percent to $53.02 at the close. Earlier, the stock set a fresh 52-week high at $53.67.
On Wednesday morning, investors will be parsing testimony by Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke before a congressional panel, the Joint Economic Committee. The minutes of the Fed's latest policy-setting meeting will be released on Wednesday afternoon.
"Central banks have been flooding the world with liquidity, and one place that's gone is into the stock markets," said Brian Gendreau, market strategist at Cetera Financial Group, based in Los Angeles.
Still, a reduction or end of the current quantitative easing program wouldn't necessarily mean the end of the rally, as a better economic outlook should offset the change to monetary policy, Gendreau said.
Apple (AAPL) Chief Executive Tim Cook testified before Congress after a U.S. Senate report on the company's offshore tax structure said the iPhone maker has kept billions of dollars in profits in Irish subsidiaries to pay little or no taxes to any government. Apple shares fell 0.7 percent to $439.66.
Volume was roughly 6.15 billion shares on the New York Stock Exchange, the Nasdaq and the NYSE MKT, slightly lower than the year-to-date average daily closing volume of about 6.34 billion.
Advancers outnumbered decliners on the NYSE by a ratio of 8 to 7, while on the Nasdaq, about 13 stocks rose for every 12 that fell.
By Angela Moon