Stocks extended their streak for a fifth straight session Wednesday after Intel and JPMorgan reported earnings that topped expectations.
"All in all, it's early in the earnings season, but it's a positive demand trend we're seeing," Bennett Gaeger, managing director at Stifel Nicolaus, told Reuters. "It's not only pointing to a U.S. rebound, it looks like more of a global, macro rebound."
The S&P crossed the key 1,200 mark in the first minute of trading, a level it hasn't seen since September 2008.
Adding to the morning's bullish tone were better-than-expected reports on retail sales and consumer prices.
Retail sales jumped 1.6 percentin March, the largest increase since November, and consumer prices ticked up 0.1 percent. Mortage applications fell for a second straight weeklast week as mortgage rates crept higher — the 30-year fixed is now at 5.16 percent, according to the latest Bankrate.com stats.
And U.S. business inventories rose to their highest level in seven months in February as businesses restocked to meet rising demand.
Intel shares rose after the chip maker beat on both earnings and revenue.
JPMorgan Chase also topped earnings and revenue forecasts, with strength in investment banking and fixed-income trading. The company also said it plans to hire 9,000 new employees in the U.S.
Those two stocks, along with Bank of America , were at the top of the Dow pack.
Merck and Verizon were among the early decliners.
Among other news out of the banking sector today: Morgan Stanley told investors that it may lose $5.4 billiondue to bad investments.
And Bank of America named outsider Charles Noski as its new finance chief.
Also on the earnings front, Dow transportation component CSX beat estimates and saw quarterly earnings jump 22 percent.
Apple shares rose 1 percent after the company said the iPad has been a "runaway success" — so much so, that it delayed the international launch.
European shares were higher with technology stocks rising on the back of Intel’s earnings. Asian indexes also closed in the green with technology stocks getting a boost.
Adding to the optimism in Asia, China's economy grew 11.9 percent in the first quarter, the fastest pace in nearly three years, Reuters reported. The official report from China is slated to come out on Thursday.
Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke told Congres that he is confident the economic recovery will have staying powerbut won't be strong enough to bring quick relief on the employment front.
There are a parade of Fed speakers today: Richmond Federal Reserve President Jeffrey Lacker is expected to tell a West Virginia audience that the time is drawing nearer for the Fed to drop its "extended period" language where low interest rates are concerned. Lacker is due to speak at 11 am New York time. Fed Governor Warsh and Dallas Fed President Fisher also speak today.
At 2 pm, the Fed is out with its Beige Book regional assessment of the nation's economy.
Elsewhere, shares of Nokia advanced after Credit Suisse raised its price target for the telecomm in anticipation of stronger sales in 2010 and 2011.
Toyotasuspended sales of its Lexus GX 460 SUV after Consumer Reports slapped the vehicle with a rare "don't buy" rating due to an extraordinarily high risk of a rollover on some turns.
Still to Come:
WEDNESDAY: Fed's Pianalto, Lacker, Warsh & Fisher speak; business inventories, crude inventories; beige book
THURSDAY: Taxes due; Empire state manufacturing survey; industrial production; Philly Fed report; Fed's Lacker, Bullard & Lockhart speak; housing-market index; earnings from Google, AMD
FRIDAY: State unemployment rates; housing starts; Fed's Warsh speaks; consumer sentiment; earnings from Bank of America, GE, Mattel & Gannett
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