Stocks rose to a 19-month high Friday, with Merck leading the Dow after the drug giant assuaged concerns about the impact of health-care reform.
The Dow pulled off an eighth straight week of gains. And it was a straight flush this week, with the Dow ending higher in five of five sessions this week, for a total gain of 1.7 percent.
A few weak outlooks and lingering worries about Greece kept a lid on some of those gains but there was enough relief in earnings news and subsiding worries about the charges against Goldman Sachs that the Dow pulled it off.
This eight-week winning streak is the Dow's longest since January 2004. This was also the eighth straight weekly win for theNasdaq. And one-third of the companies in the S&P 500were trading at 52-week highs or greater.
Energy, consumer discretionary and industrials were the week's best-performing sectors as investors continued to bet on the recovery. The health-care, telecom and consumer staples sectors were among the weakest links.
Analysts say there's still a lot of uncertainty around the health care and telecom sectors and that the market is going through a period of rotation. "Investors believe that the valuations have gotten ahead of themselves," said Quincy Krosby, market strategist at Prudential Financial.
Boeing had the most positive impact on the Dow this week, up over 6 percent. Coca-Cola was the worst Dow performer, down nearly 2 percent.
Apple had the most positive impact on the S&P and Nasdaq, up nearly 9.5 percent this week, while Qualcomm was the biggest drag on those indexes, down nearly 11 percent.
Some good news on the economic front today: New-home sales shot up 26.9 percentlast month, the largest year-over-year increase in nearly five years, as buyers jumped in to take advantage of the first-time homebuyers' tax credit. February's bad weather may have also played a role, pushing some sales into March. Sales dropped 4.1 percent in February.
Homebuilders got a big boost from the report, with Lennar, Pulte and Beazer all up more than 5 percent.
This came after an earlier report showed durable-goods orders excluding transportation jumped 2.8 percentin March, the largest rise in more than two years. Durable goods are big-ticket items like appliances, cars and planes. Transportation orders tend to be very volatile — as one company's large order or lackthereof can skew the headline number — so stripping them out offers a better indication of demand.
Oil prices settledabove $85 a barrel as signals of a stronger economic recovery in the U.S. boosted the outlook for energy demand. Gold prices topped$1,150 an ounce as the dollar extended lossesagainst the euro.
Greece officially asked for aid from the IMF and European Union today and is negotiating the terms. The move brought some relief to the market, as the issue has been hanging over the market for months, but some investors worried the size of the package may not be enough.
"I've been amazed that the (European Union) has withstood the pressures it has thus far. I'm afraid that it won't be able to stand much longer," Dennis Gartman, founder of The Gartman Letter, told CNBC.
"Trying to get this passed by all of the members of the monetary union, when you have Portugal, Spain, Italy in the same circumstance, it's going to be very hard for anybody to get it passed," Gartman said.
In today's action, Merck was the biggest gainer on the Dow after the world's second-largest drug maker said costs it will incur due to health-care reform will have a smaller impact on its sales compared to rivals.
The S&P health-care index finished up 1.1 percent today after taking a beating in recent sessions.
American Express was in the Dow's No. 2 spot after credit-card company reported strong results.
On the flip side, Microsoft was the biggest decliner on the Dow, down 1.4 percent, after the software giant posted a better-than-expected 35 percent jump in quarterly profit but the results fell short of investors' lofty expectations.
Travelersalso dragged on the Dow after the firm missed expectations this morning and Verizon was lower, after the telecom giant on Thursday reported its wireless growth slowed in the latest quarter.
Amazon shares plunged almost 5 percent after the companyreported lower-than-expected earnings on Thursday, raising concerns about the online retailer's future margins.
Meanwhile, Apple hit another new high for the year, topping $272.
Honeywell also beat estimates and boosted its full-year earnings targetand Xerox shares rose after the digital printer company beat Wall Street expectations.
Next week is another packed week on the earnings front, with reports due out from Caterpillar, Ford, 3M, Visa, ExxonMobil, P&G and Chevron, among others.