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Stocks Stage Broad Rally As Dow Sees Triple-Digit Gains

Stocks moved broadly higher and the Dow logged triple-digit gains as investors were encouraged by large investments revealed by several billionaire investors.

"We're in a bull market without any question," said Ned Riley, CEO of Riley Asset Management. "You can't deny this market because there is so much money being invested. People are still trying to short this market and that's kind of baffling. Bottom line, the market looks very good."

The Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 103.69 points, or 0.8%, to close at yet another record high. The benchmark index of blue chip stocks has closed higher in 29 of the last 34 trading sessions. The Nasdaq Composite ended a recent slump to close up 0.9% while the S&P 500 closed at its highest level since September 2000.

The rally got started early after well-known investors Warren Buffett, George Soros and Eddie Lampert disclosed stakes in a number of large companies.

"It's amazing to me that the market is so resilient," Michael Metz, chief investment strategist at Oppenheimer told CNBC.com. "Every pause is considered a buying opportunity. They've got money and they don't want to buy real estate or bonds, so there's nothing else to do but buy stocks."

Buffett's holding company Berkshire Hathaway disclosed investments railroads Union Pacific and Norfolk Southern and said it doubled its stake in health care giant Johnson & Johnson .

Meanwhile, billionaire financier George Soros said he has more than doubled his stake in Microsoft and now has a stake of more than 415,000 shares in the tech bellwether.

Citigroup saw shares rise 4%, pushing the Dow higher, following a disclosure by hedge fund manager Eddie Lampert's purchase of 15 million shares.

Buying was across the board with gains in all 10 economic sectors tracked by S&P. Telecoms, consumer staples, financials, tech and health care all posted gains of more than 1% on Wednesday.

Merger news continued to roll in with news that Bausch & Lomb rose after the company announced it has agreed to be acquired by Warburg Pincus, the global private equity firm, in a transaction valued at approximately $4.5 billion. Warburg Pincus will acquire all of the eye care manufacturer's outstanding shares for $65 a piece.

Federated Department Stores reported a quarterly profit, compared with a loss a year ago, as gross margins improved. However, the company said sales were "disappointing" at new Macy's stores. Federated said net income was $36 million, or 8 cents per diluted share.

A mixed batch of economic data triggered earlier weakness in stocks failed to dampen investors' hopes as the markets closed at session highs.

Output at the nation's factories, mines and utilities rebounded in April, with gains across the board, according to the Federal Reserve. Industrial production rose 0.7% in April, more than expected, while capacity utilization, a key measure of inflationary pressures, rose to 81.6%.

New York light sweet crude futures initially fell on news Nigerian protestors had abandoned a pipeline gathering point in Nigeria that supplies the Bonny oil export terminal. Oil traders also got bearish inventory numbers.

European Stocks Close Lower, Asia Ends Flat

First-quarter earnings came in mostly better than the market anticipated Wednesday, but the major indexes remained weak as investors reacted to euro zone inflation data and indications that more interest rate hikes are coming in Britain.

Britain's FTSE-100, France's CAC-40 and Germany's DAX all ended the trading session lower.

UK supermarket chain J. Sainsbury posted a 42% rise in annual earnings and said it aims for sales growth of $6.9 billion over the next three years.

Dutch financial services group ING reported a decline in first-quarter earnings, citing weak performances in its banking and insurance divisions. ING said quarterly earnings fell 5.6%.

Elsewhere in Europe, steelmaker Arcelor Mittal met analysts' quarterly earnings forecasts and Swiss insurer Zurich Financial Services Group beat expectations and announced more acquisitions.

Asian markets closed mostly flat in the afternoon session Wednesday. The Nikkei 225 Average rose slightly as shares of Hitachi rebounded after the tech conglomerate said it would return to profitability this year. offsetting losses in Kajima and other construction shares.

South Korea's Kospi Index closed higher as shipbuilder Samsung Heavy Industries recovered from recent losses after the company said it won a vessel order.

Hong Kong blue chips rose and China play such as PetroChina edged higher on the oil and gas firm's projection that the recovery rate at a newly discovered oil field could be over 40%.

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