U.S. stocks rose on Tuesday as consumer confidence data lifted optimism about the economy's improvement and results from Travelers Cos and Apple Inc added to a stream of strong profit reports.

Travelers was the top boost on the Dow, up 3.1 percent to $50.41, after the property-casualty insurer posted a profit that beat Wall Street's estimate. For details see

After a lower open, stocks reversed course after data showed consumer confidence rose for a third straight month in January to its highest level since September 2008, easing concerns about individual spending. Sectors that benefit from an improved economic outlook were among top performers, including the S&P tech sector <.GSPT>, up 0.6 percent. The S&P Retail index <.RLX> advanced 0.8 percent.

We've kind of had some mediocre numbers starting mid-December, and this is one on the upside. The consumer confidence number here is a meaningful lift, said Peter Jankovskis, co-chief investment officer at OakBrook Investments LLC in Lisle, Illinois.

The Dow Jones industrial average <.DJI> gained 51.92 points, or 0.51 percent, to 10,248.78. The Standard & Poor's 500 Index <.SPX> rose 3.10 points, or 0.28 percent, to 1,099.88. The Nasdaq Composite Index <.IXIC> added 8.58 points, or 0.39 percent, to 2,219.38.

The Federal Reserve's policy-setting committee began a two-day meeting on Tuesday against the backdrop of a Senate debate over Chairman Ben Bernanke's reconfirmation. The meeting is expected to yield few policy shifts.

Stocks opened lower on concerns about a Chinese government clampdown on bank lending. Banking sources said China's central bank told some banks to increase their reserve ratios to curb excessive lending.

iPhone maker Apple gained 4.6 percent to $212.16, a day after reporting strong quarterly results and on growing anticipation over its tablet product launch on Wednesday.

Apple provided the biggest lift to the Nasdaq, followed by Microsoft Corp , up 1.1 percent to $29.61, which is scheduled to report results later this week.

Other Dow components posting results included DuPont, which gained 0.2 percent at $32.88, but Johnson & Johnson , which gave a conservative forecast, dipped 0.8 percent to $62.73.

Verizon Communications slipped 2.2 percent to $30 after the phone company reported its fourth-quarter results and said it is facing a slower-than-expected economic recovery.

(Editing by Kenneth Barry)