New Records: Dow Ends Above 15000 for First Time; S&P in Bull Market

Stocks finished near their best levels Tuesday, with the S&P 500 extending its recent rally to a fresh high and the Dow closing above the 15,000 milestone for the first time.

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S&P 500

The Dow Jones Industrial Average rallied 87.31 points, to end at 15,056.20, finishing above 15,000 for the first time, led by Caterpillar and JPMorgan. The index first broke above the milestone on Friday. The blue-chip index also ended higher for the 17th consecutive Tuesday. This is the first time in history that the index has posted such a streak.

The S&P 500 climbed 8.46 points, to close at 1,625.96. The index entered bull market territory, climbing 20 percent since its lows in mid-November. The Nasdaq squeezed out a gain of 3.66 points, to end at 3,396.63.

The CBOE Volatility Index (VIX), widely considered the best gauge of fear in the market, ended below 13.

So far this year, the Dow and the S&P 500 have both surged more than 14 percent, while the Nasdaq has soared more than 12 percent.

Most key S&P sectors finished higher, led by telecoms and industrials, while techs closed lower.

"The market is still exhibiting good karma from last week's employment report," said Cam Albright, director of asset allocation at Wilmington Trust Investment Advisors. "Some of the news that's coming out of Europe has been a bit more positive as well—the German factory orders report was helpful."

European shares were higher following some better-than-expected earnings and after German manufacturing orders for March rose 2.2 percent, topping expectations for a decline.

Meanwhile, European Central Bank chief Mario Draghi said the central bank is closely watching incoming data and is ready to take further action, if needed, to address economic weakness.

Meanwhile, in Japan, the country's benchmark Nikkei index reached its highest level since the collapse of Lehman Brothers, boosted by the weak yen, which has lost more than 1 percent since Thursday.

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"The U.S. economy and markets have led the way and now we're seeing better performance out of Europe and some of the Asian markets this month, so those things are all positive," added Albright. "Valuations are not overly stretched either, so from that perspective, it's not inappropriate to add to positions."

Widely-followed hedge fund manager David Einhorn said he had added to his investment position in Apple. The stock, however, turned negative following the news as investors took the announcement as an opportunity to cash in on the iPhone maker's recent run.

And other major tech giants including Apple, Google and Microsoft were in the red as investors took profit following the recent rally in the tech sector.

Among earnings, Discovery Communications posted better-than-expected quarterly results and forecast annual revenue above estimates.

DirecTV rallied after the satellite TV provider blew past Wall Street estimates, helped by better-than-expected growth in Latin America.

OfficeMax was lower after the office supply retailer posted lower-than-expected earnings, hurt by continued weak sales of technology products and fewer customers. The company is awaiting regulatory approval for its pending merger with Office Depot.

Dow component Walt Disney is scheduled to post results after the closing bell. Separately, the conglomerate said it is teaming up with videogames publisher Electronic Arts to develop games based on the "Star Wars" movies. EA is also slated to report earnings after the closing bell, in addition to Symantec, WholeFoods and TripAdvisor.

More than 85 percent of S&P 500 companies have posted quarterly results so far, with 67 percent topping earnings expectations and 23 percent missing forecasts, according to Reuters. If all remaining companies post numbers in line with estimates, earnings will be up 5.4 percent on last year.

But on average, sales have come in 1 percent below estimates, with only 46 percent of companies beating their revenue projections.

On the economic front, consumer credit rose a meager $7.97 billion to $2.81 trillion in March, its smallest increase in eight months, according to the Federal Reserve. Economists polled by Reuters had expected a gain of $16 billion.

The government auctioned $32 billion in 3-year notes at a high yield of 0.354 percent. The bid-to-cover ratio, an indicator of demand, was 3.38.

—By CNBC's JeeYeon Park. Follow JeeYeon on Twitter: @JeeYeonParkCNBC

On Tap This Week:

WEDNESDAY: MBA mortgage applications, Fed's Stein speaks, oil inventories, 10-yr note auction, BofA shareholder mtg; Earnings from Toyota, Liberty Interactive, Liberty Media, AOL, Sodastream, Wendy's, Activision Blizzard, Green Mountain Coffee, Groupon, Monster BEverage, NewsCorp, Tesla Motors, Transocean
THURSDAY: BoE announcement, Fed's Lacker speaks, jobless claims, wholesale inventories, natural gas inventories, 30-yr bond auction, Fed's Plosser speaks, Fed balance sheet/money supply, Barclays's investor mtg, Ford annual mtg, weekly rail numbers, chain store sales; Earnings from Dean Foods, Dish Network, Sony, Nvidia,
FRIDAY: Fed's Evans speaks, Bernanke speaks, Fed's George speaks, Treasury budget, G-8 mtg; Earnings from ArcelorMittal, GoldFields

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