Shares of General Electric Co. surged more than 3 percent to a five-year high on Tuesday, pushing the company's market capitalization above the $400 billion mark, on a technically driven wave of buying, investors said.

The shares rose $1.25 to $39.32 on the New York Stock Exchange, closing the gap with Exxon Mobil Corp., which has the world's largest market capitalization of $486 billion, and providing a powerful lift to the blue-chip Dow Jones industrial average. Earlier, they had been as high as


The surge pushed GE's market capitalization to $404 billion.

This may very well be a technical thing going on. $38 was kind of a barrier on these shares and once they crept above that, demand has really risen, there's been a significant spike in the shares, said Tom Uutala, an analyst at Victory Capital Management, a Cleveland, Ohio-based company that manages about $60 billion in assets and owns GE shares.

This is, I think, a stock that has generally been under-owned by a lot of institutions, Uutala said. It might be a case of a lot of people jumping in all at the same time.

A company spokesman said he was unaware of the reason for the sharp move in the stock.

Some investors have complained about the lack of movement in GE shares over the last few years, as they have lagged the major U.S. indexes. Investors and analysts, however, suggested that the shares would benefit as the slowing U.S. economy made GE's predictable financial returns a more appealing investment.

It's maybe playing catch up, said Richard Steinberg, president of Steinberg Global Asset Management, a Boca Raton, Florida-based asset management firm that holds GE shares.

Prior to Tuesday's rally, GE shares had been as high as $38.49 and as low as $32.06 over the past 12 months.

With the rally, they are up 5.7 percent for the year, still lagging the Dow's 9.4 percent gain.