U.S. stocks notched a fifth straight day of gains on Wednesday as stronger-than-expected corporate results and March retail sales pushed the S&P 500 past 1,200 for the first time in 18 months.
Dow components Intel Corp
JPMorgan was the top percentage gainer on the Dow, up 4 percent to $47.73, followed by Bank of America Corp
There were fairly high expectations for both JPMorgan and Intel, so these beats show how much things are improving, said Douglas Peta, an independent market strategist in New York.
More stocks hit a 52-week high on the New York Stock Exchange than on any day since the end of December 2003. The Nasdaq recorded its greatest number of 52-week highs since January 2004.
The Dow Jones industrial average <.DJI> was up 103.69 points, or 0.94 percent, at 11,123.11. The Standard & Poor's 500 Index <.SPX> was up 13.35 points, or 1.12 percent, at 1,210.65. The Nasdaq Composite Index <.IXIC> was up 38.87 points, or 1.58 percent, at 2,504.86.
The strong earnings from JPMorgan and Intel and good trading volume boosted investor sentiment after a revenue disappointment from Dow component Alcoa Inc
While the large number of 52-week highs suggest broad-based buying, momentum indicators also suggest the markets could be overbought.
Also boosting sentiment were March retail sales, which rose 1.6 percent, the Commerce Department reported, beating expectations for a 1.2 percent increase. The S&P retail index <.RLX> climbed 1.2 percent.
Everyone who said that the consumer was dead clearly has to reconsider the obituary, Peta said.
Financial and technology sectors led gains on the broad S&P 500, which broke above 1,200 for the first time since September 2008 when Lehman Brothers collapsed.
The KBW Banks index <.BKX> surged 3.4 percent while Citigroup Inc
JPMorgan had raised the bar for other banks, Peta said, adding that if Bank of America didn't display the same strength as JPMorgan, it is liable to give back today's gains.
After the market's close, Yum Brands Inc
Earnings are also due this week from Google
U.S. economic activity strengthened in most regions in March and early April, except for St. Louis where plans to close several plants were announced, the Federal Reserve said in its Beige Book.
Energy stocks advanced after a surprise fall in U.S. crude inventories, a positive sign for demand that sent May crude futures up 2.3 percent to $85.99 per barrel. ConocoPhillips
A note from analysts at Jefferies Equity Derivatives said the gap between implied volatility and realized volatility suggests investors are bracing for a more volatile market. The Volatility Index <.VIX>, down 2.8 percent, is at its lowest since 2007.
About 10.24 billion shares traded on the New York Stock Exchange, the American Stock Exchange and Nasdaq, above last year's estimated daily average of 9.65 billion.
Roughly three stocks rose for every one that fell on the New York Stock Exchange, while on the Nasdaq, three stocks rose for everyone that fell.
(Reporting by Ryan Vlastelica; Editing by Kenneth Barry)