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Stocks end higher, lifted by earnings; Dow approaches record high

Stocks finished higher Tuesday, with the Dow approaching a record high, as investors cheered a round of better-than-expected quarterly earnings and largely shrugged off worries over Ukraine.

"Earning expectations were essentially zero, so I'm not sure what we accomplished. Guidance appears to be a little more positive, so that's good," said Jack Ablin, chief investment officer at BMO Private Bank.

Twitter and Ebay are among major companies slated to post earnings after the closing bell. Shares of both companies were higher.

The Dow is less than 100 points from hitting its all-time high of 16,631.63.

The Federal Open Market Committee kicked off its two-day meeting in Washington. Policy makers are expected to announce a fourth cut in the Federal Reserve's monthly bond purchases on Wednesday.

"With more than half of the S&P in, investors have a good idea of what the results are likely to be, so now we're looking back at the economy and the FOMC," said Ablin.

Investors largely shrugged off news from Ukraine. Earlier, the United States and European Union imposed more sanctions on Russia for its role in backing the separatist movement in eastern Ukraine.

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"The S&P trading range of 1,800 to 1,900 is still intact," noted Elliot Spar, market strategist at Stifel, Nicolaus & Co. "This is of little help to you if you are in the stocks that have broken down technically and are in the class of momentum names with extreme or non-existent p/e's."

Shares of Twitter rose ahead of the micro-blogging site's earnings report after Tuesday's close.

M&A developments on Tuesday had Germany's Siemens saying it would make an offer for Alstom if allowed to complete due diligence. General Electric has already bid for the French maker of power transmission gear.

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Among earnings, Ameriprise Financial rallied after the financial services company posted a 19 percent gain in first-quarter profit and said it would repurchase an additional $2.5 billion in stock.

Merck posted quarterly earnings that topped estimates, but the drug manufacturer's revenue fell just under expectations. The results came a day after Britain's Reckitt Benckiser confirmed it was in talks to acquire Merck's consumer health business for nearly $14 billion.

Sprint also gained after the wireless carrier tallied a smaller-than-expected loss in the first quarter.

Shares of Coach dropped after the seller of upscale leather goods reported sales at North American stores open at least a year fell for a fourth quarter, down 21 percent and worse than the nearly 15 percent decline anticipated by analysts.

Of the 273—or 55 percent—of S&P 500 companies that have reported first-quarter earnings so far, 68 percent have topped estimates, while 22 percent have missed, according data from Thomson Reuters.

On the economic front, consumer confidence came in just below expectations in April. Separately, the S&P Case-Shiller home price index was slightly better than expected in February.

"Expect price gains for existing homes to moderate to single digits this year as the private-equity buyer slows its pace of purchases and the first-time buyer still remains a small minority," said Peter Boockvar, chief market analyst at the Lindsey Group.

And, while the April 82.3 read on consumer sentiment was slightly below the 83.2 estimate, "it's still the second best read since January '08," Boockvar said.

—By CNBC's Kate Gibson

Coming Up This Week:

Wednesday

Earnings: Time Warner, Daimler, GlaxoSmithKline, Thomson Reuters, Pitney Bowes, Royal Dutch Shell, Total, AllianceBernstein, Shutterfly,Weight Watchers, Yelp, JDS Uniphase, Tesoro, International Rectifier, Whiting Petroleum, Actavis, MetLife, Flextronics, Boston Beer, Automatic Data, Hess, Hyatt, International Paper, Embraer, Philips 66, Flextronics, Level 3, Southern Co, WellPoint Health, Wisconsin Energy

8:15 a.m.: ADP employment

8:30 a.m.: Q1 GDP (adv)

8:30 a.m.: Employment cost index (Q1)

9:45 a.m.: PMI

2:00 p.m.: Fed statement

Thursday

Light vehicle sales

Earnings: ExxonMobil, MasterCard, ConocoPhillips, Cardinal Health, Mylan Las, Domino's Pizza, Iron Mountain, Beazer Homes, Generac,Expedia, American Tower, Cigna, CME Group, Goldcorp,Clorox, Calpine, Marathon Petroleum, Kraft, LinkedIn, Vertex Pharma, Akamai, Teva Pharma, Kellogg, Agnico Eagle Mines, Open Table

8:30 a.m.: Fed Chair Janet Yellen speaks to the Independent Community Bankers of America

8:30 a.m.: Initial claims

8:30 a.m.: Personal income

8:58 a.m.: Manufacturing PMI

10:00 a.m.: ISM manufacturing

10:00 a.m.: Construction spending

Friday

Earnings: Chevron, Estee Lauder, TransCanada, Marsh and McClennan, Newell Rubbermaid, Sempra Energy, CVS Caremark

8:30 a.m.: Employment

10:00 a.m.: Factory orders

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