Associated Press via USA Today
Stocks climbed Tuesday, sending the Dow to record high, led by materials and energy companies after a rally in commodity prices.
The Dow Jones industrial average rose 63 points, 0.4%, to a record 14,677, according to preliminary results. The Standard & Poor's 500 index climbed 5 points, or 0.6%, to 1,568. The tech-heavy Nasdaq composite index rose 17 points, or 0.5%, to 3,239.
The prices of metals like copper, gold and silver have rebounded this week after slumping for the first three months of the year on waning demand. Oil is also rising following a sharp decline last week.
"You're seeing some pretty decent action in the overall market, with today's leadership coming from the basic materials sector," said Robert Pavlik, chief market strategist at Banyan Partners. "It's an area of the market that does represent some value because it's underperformed."
Material companies were the biggest gainers of the 10 industry groups in the S&P 500, rising 1.2%. Energy companies posted the second best return, advancing 1%.
Cliff's Natural Resources, an iron ore mining company, rose $1.54, or 8.2%, to $20.32. The company's stock is still down 47% this year. Freeport-McMoRan Copper & Gold, another mining company, was up $1.34, or 4.%, at $33.77.
The stock of First Solar soared after the solar panel maker issued a better-than-expected outlook for 2013 and solid predictions for the following two years, helped by continued growth in shipments. The stock price rose nearly $13, or 46%, to $39.52.
Tuesday's advances put the Dow on track for a record close and suggested that a three week period of indecisiveness for traders and investors may be over.
The stock market has mostly moved sideways since the middle of March. The Dow has alternated between small gains and losses, after starting the year on a tear. Signs of slowing growth and concerns about the outlook for Europe had checked investors' confidence.
Alcoa, traditionally the first company in the Dow to report results, was little changed at $8.40 after the company posted its earnings late Monday. The aluminum producer's earnings beat Wall Street's expectations but the company was still weighed down by depressed aluminum prices, which offset strong demand from auto and plane makers.
As the first major company to report quarterly earnings, Alcoa is closely watched.
Online auto retailer CarMax, home goods retailer Bed Bath & Beyond and banks Wells Fargo and JPMorgan Chase are among companies that will report earnings later this week.
While stocks are struggling to extend their gains from the start of the year, bonds have rallied.
The yield on the 10-year Treasury note was unchanged at 1.75%. But the benchmark rate has fallen from a high of 2.06% reached March 11 as demand for low-risk assets increases.
Benchmark oil for May delivery rose 91 cents to $94.27 per barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The contract rose 66 cents to finish at $93.36 a barrel on Monday.
Investors will be looking to see whether companies are feeling an impact from government spending cuts that kicked in recently, said Jim Russell, investment director at U.S. Bank. They will also want to know what impact, if any, there will be from the ongoing debt crisis in Europe.
"The market is looking for companies to fill in those blanks," said Russell.
J.C. Penney plunged $1.67, or 11%, to $14.20 following its ouster of CEO Ron Johnson after only 17 months on the job. J.C. Penney announced late Monday that it had rehired Johnson's predecessor, Mike Ullman, who was CEO of the department store operator for seven years until November 2011.
Analysts and investors are questioning whether Ullman has what it takes to turn around the retailer's fortunes after sales plummeted under Johnson's reign.
Wall Street ended higher Monday. The Dow rose 0.3% to 14,613.48. The S&P 500 rose 0.6% to 1,563.07. The Nasdaq composite gained 0.6% to 3,222.25.
Japan's benchmark stock index failed to secure a fifth straight day of gains on Tuesday. The Nikkei 225 index ended flat at 3,192.35. South Korea's Kospi rose 0.11% to 1,920.74 as tension brewed on the Korean peninsula.
In Europe, the region's Stoxx Europe 600 index saw modest gains -- up around 0.4% to 288.92.